On 1 July 1990 responsibility for the management of the Australian National Botanic Gardens was transferred from the Department of the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories to the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service (now the Australian Nature Conservation Agency), and on 10 September 1991 the Gardens was proclaimed a Reserve under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975.

A plan of management is a requirement of the Act, which states in Section 11(8)(c) that in preparing a plan for the Gardens, regard shall be had to the following objects:

the increase of knowledge, appreciation and enjoyment of Australia's plant heritage by establishing, as an integrated resource, a collection of living and herbarium specimens of Australian and related plants for study, interpretation, conservation and display.

Now is a suitable time to prepare a plan, not only because a plan is required by legislation but also because, in the face of several changes, the Gardens needs to assess priorities for its future.

Recognising the need for a long-term development strategy, in 1991 the Gardens commissioned consultants to prepare a 10-year Development Planning Guide for the Canberra site, as an input to the process of preparing this Plan of Management. The brief required the consultants to recommend ways of rationalising existing site facilities and functions and integrating them with proposed developments in the context of the Gardens' unique natural and cultural heritage. The task involved extensive discussions with staff and a range of interest groups and the consultants also drew on the information obtained from recent surveys of visitors to the Gardens. The resulting recommendations (see Appendix I) deal with the future development of the living collections and facilities to maintain them, visitor facilities and services, and accommodation and facilities for staff. The recommendations of the Development Planning Guide form the basis for many of the proposals put forward in this Plan.

The purpose of this Plan is to describe the philosophy and direction of management for the Australian National Botanic Gardens for the next five years. It enables management to proceed in an orderly way, helps to reconcile competing interests, and identifies priorities for the allocation of available resources. The basic components of the Plan are three statements:

In addition to the requirements of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act, the Plan must take heed of the requirements of other authorities and legislation. Most significant in this regard are the planning and heritage conservation obligations of the National Capital Planning Authority, and the Australian Heritage Commission and the Heritage Council of the ACT.

In March 1989, pursuant to the Australian Capital Territory (Planning and Land Management) Act 1988, the total area of the Gardens in Canberra was declared national land, National land is designated as land required for the special purposes of Canberra as the National Capital, and is administered by the National Capital Planning Authority, as distinct from land administered by the ACT Government. The National Capital Plan specifies `designated areas' that have the special characteristics of the National Capital. The Gardens occupies a site in a designated area and no works may be undertaken without the approval in writing of the National Capital Planning Authority. In the absence of an agreed long-term plan the Authority has been approving works in the Gardens on a case-by-case basis. Adoption of a plan of management will streamline this process.

On 14 May 1991 the developed part of the Gardens in Canberra (some 49 hectares) were placed on the Register of the National Estate. In its Statement of Significance for that part of the Gardens, the Australian Heritage Commission lists as the principal attributes of the site the rare and endangered native plant species in cultivation, the linkage of the Herbarium collection to the living plant collections making a valuable research and teaching site, the high-quality landscape setting, and the high degree of technical achievement in the establishment and construction of the Gardens. The Commission has also considered a nomination for the Gardens at Jervis Bay and has agreed it is worthy of listing on the Register. Formal action will be taken to enter the Jervis Bay site on the register will be taken in early 1994.

The Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975 requires that no action be taken which would adversely affect the heritage values of a place on the Register unless there is no feasible or prudent alternative. It also requires that before any action is taken that might affect the heritage values, the Commission be given the opportunity to consider it. The preparation of this plan has identified those developments about which the Commission wishes to be consulted and facilitated streamlining of this process.

The Gardens in Canberra are also subject to the heritage provisions of the Australian Capital Territory Land (Planning and Environment) Act 1991 and to nomination to the interim Heritage Places Register. The Heritage Council of the ACT has responsibility for the identification, description and conservation of heritage under this legislation and will undertake any assessment and nomination of the Gardens. The legislation requires the development of Conservation Plans for listed heritage places, to specifically identify, protect and conserve those elements of heritage significance. The adoption of this plan will assist in streamlining this process.