The boss turns back on treedom

PHILIP Moors looks out over the Royal Botanic Gardens, of which he has been director for 20 years, and he is satisfied.

PHILIP Moors looks out over the Royal Botanic Gardens, of which he has been director for 20 years, and he is satisfied.

On paper the gardens have 1.7 million visitors a year, a 2011-12 budget of $21 million, and survived a 13-year drought.

But a word on the lawns best conveys the worth of the place.

"One of the most powerful comments made to me is by a grandparent clutching the hand of a three-year-old grandchild, saying, 'I remember coming here when I was Sophie's age with my grandparent, feeding the swans and rolling down the hill'," Dr Moors said. "I think that's so wonderful."

After 20 years in the role the second-longest stint after William Guilfoyle's 36 years from 1873 Dr Moors this week announced his retirement.

State Environment Minister Ryan Smith said Dr Moors had done "outstanding work", pointing to the Ian Potter Foundation Children's Garden, "the first of its kind in Australia" and loved by locals and tourists. Mr Smith said the Australian Garden at the RBG's Cranbourne campus was "a spectacular and unique celebration" of native Australian plant life. A display based on it won a 2011 gold medal at Britain's Chelsea Flower Show.

Mr Smith also praised the restoration of Guilfoyle's Volcano, a bluestone reservoir holding 1 million litres, built in 1876, that was closed and fenced off in the 1920s when mains water was introduced. It has been reopened to the public and later this year will become part of Working Wetlands, a system trapping stormwater to supply 40 per cent of the gardens' irrigation.

Other highlights of his directorship have included the opening in 1999 of the $7.5 million, state government-funded Observatory Gate precinct, with its restored observatory, shop and cafe. Moonlight Cinema proved a hit after it started in 1996, and private functions in the gardens such as weddings have kept the cash rolling in.

After leaving in November, Dr Moors plans to spend more time with family, travel, and to continue to serve on the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, the national parks advisory council and the Myer Foundation's environment committee.

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