THE word “lucky” comes up constantly in a conversation with Simon Harrison.
The new manager of Parks and Natural Reserves at the City of Greater Bendigo was lucky, he says, to get his first job with Parks Victoria while he was still studying horticulture in Melbourne, lucky to go to work at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Cranbourne, very lucky to head off to Narrandera shire, where he managed open spaces and recreation, equally lucky to snag a job at Cowra as service manager, where he learnt heaps about waste services and saleyards.
His luck held when he headed to Sydney, to manage assets and services at the central city Centennial Parklands.
And now, following a stint in Ryde, lucky Simon has landed in Bendigo.
“I came here because this is an iconic city, and these opportunities don’t come up very often,” Mr Harrison says.
“I can honestly say, there hasn’t been one day on the job since I’ve been here that I haven’t loved.”
Employed within the “assets and resources” directorate of Darren Fuzzard, Mr Harrison is keen to develop a “service delivery plan” for his unit.
“We knew what we were doing, but we hadn’t documented how we go about our business,” he says.
“That’s a big difference for us.”
With 94,000 trees under his watch, and a city which prides itself on its open spaces, he is aware that many eyes are on him, as he picks up the green baton and prepares to run with it.
So far, he’s had to tackle the disastrous discovery of Fusarium Wilt fungal disease in the Washingtonia palms in the Conservatory Gardens, and also deteriorating sugar gums that needed to be removed from Kangaroo Flat.
But while the palm problem could not have been anticipated, Mr Harrison says his unit’s task is to get ahead of problems, being proactive, rather than reactive.
“Things like the sugar gums are identified as part of our assessment process,” he says.
“When I arrived, we sat down and looked at some key things that would be good to do to make Bendigo a better place.
“There are reactive things we have to do, like dealing with vandalism and things we can’t control, but we have a proactive tree maintenance program about to commence and we’ve done a bit of work in the CBD with that already.”
The grass on the Mitchell Street median strip is now low-water turf, and looking pretty good, Mr Harrison says.
He’s also chuffed about the rubberised tree bases installed outside the Town Hall and the Soldier’s Memorial Museum, which cleverly protect the trees, allow water in, and also look neat.
But these are details in a much bigger picture. Bendigo, a “very European city” much admired for its parks and gardens, is, for Mr Harrison, a machine he wants to see running smoothly.
“It’s all about delivery of really good services and presenting Bendigo in the best manner possible,” he says.
“There’s a list as long as my arm – longer – of what we plan to do.
“We’ve taken on four new apprentices, all young people, all horticulturalists, and council gave us approval for two new positions in our sports field and horticulture teams.
“Our demands are increasing like you wouldn’t believe.”
One of the current projects Mr Harrison and his team are involved in is the plan for Upper Rosalind Park, which is being developed in conjunction with the Master Plan adopted in 2004.
“It’s in its formulative stage, so we’re just providing input at the moment.“That’s going to be a very important document.”