Yarralumla nursery joins the list of territory owned businesses going to wrack and ruin

johnboy 9 October 2012 22

The Canberra Times has a scathing critique of the failings at the Yarralumla nursery:

— the destruction of more than 133,000 plants and trees worth $1.5 million last financial year

— nutrient-rich water, which feeds algae blooms, was running off the property and into Lake Burley Griffin

— Only two of 28 heritage listed glasshouses in complete working order with 18 closed for safety reasons and an inquiry into an employee confirmed six breaches of the Public Sector Management Act leading to the staff member’s dismissal.

Also most of what they sell has not been grown on site which might well surprise their customers.

UPDATE: The ABC is carrying Chief Minister Gallagher’s confidence that “processes are in place” now. But if we’d asked her a year ago it’s hard to imagine she’d have said anything different.


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22 Responses to Yarralumla nursery joins the list of territory owned businesses going to wrack and ruin
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MarkG MarkG 12:59 am 10 Oct 12

133 000 plants lost is sad and shambolic. Taxpayers own this business, so claiming ‘commercial in confidence’ as grounds for secrecy is akin to a regular business denying information on profit and loss to its own shareholders. Proper transparency could have saved us all a lot of money here.

Also, the use of bland phrases like “couldn’t be donated”, unaccompanied by any form of explanation, should trigger alarm bells among those of us who’ve worked in or near the APS. It’s simply never a good sign.

“Processes” are being changed, purportedly. Hopefully we get a process for ending the misuse of ‘commercial in confidence’ to conceal information about public assets from the public.

Mark Gibbons
Pirate Party for Brindabella

bd84 bd84 11:53 pm 09 Oct 12

Another prime example why this town needs a change in government.

Here we have a government run enterprise which clearly has not been properly run, nor has there been anything close to adequate oversight by the head of the department involved by the looks of it. But here we have Katy running back onto the field going “oh it’s all good, there was a problem, but we fixed it now so it’s still all good and we don’t need to do anything” No accountability for anybody, just add it to the list of the hospital data scandal and Rhodium as another case of the finger pointing each way exercise..

I think the people demanding to know why the plants weren’t donated to schools etc. should read between the lines mentioned in the story and realised that the plants were diseased or had already been destroyed. It sounds like they wouldn’t have been much use for anyone.

PantsMan PantsMan 11:04 pm 09 Oct 12

milkman said :

Mr Evil said :

133 000 plants destroyed: is that the actual figure, or a figure adjusted by a friend of Katy’s family?

Claimed by Greenpeace?

Does the gardener bat for the other team?

Ian Ian 10:00 pm 09 Oct 12

Why is the ACT Govt even trying to run a nursery? Just buy the plants from a commercial nursery which actually knows how to run a business.

gooterz gooterz 9:05 pm 09 Oct 12

“Also most of what they sell has not been grown on site which might well surprise their customers.”
That can’t be true their website clearly says:
“You can be confident with your cold hardy purchase as all the plants we sell, are grown right here on site by the production side of the Nursery.”

Viewing the website its just like its 1999 again, the current stock list is a PDF, doesn’t even have photos. Perhaps it was last updated in 2006 the date at the bottom of the site.
Complete lack of pricing too. A college student could do better.

An example of a better site would be http://nativesplus.com.au/store/products/category/medium-shrub
You can order online and the prices are actually decent.

I’m suprised that the nursery even uses fertiliser if they are using lake water.

But i’m sure the pirate party will like their email:
yarr.nursery@act.gov.au

milkman milkman 8:50 pm 09 Oct 12

Mr Evil said :

133 000 plants destroyed: is that the actual figure, or a figure adjusted by a friend of Katy’s family?

Claimed by Greenpeace?

Mr Evil Mr Evil 8:12 pm 09 Oct 12

133 000 plants destroyed: is that the actual figure, or a figure adjusted by a friend of Katy’s family?

rosscoact rosscoact 7:46 pm 09 Oct 12

c_c said :

Deref said :

“Commercial in confidence” is grubbyment speak for “this is embarrassing”.

I’ll vote for anyone, even a Lib, who promises to get rid of it. We paid for it – we have a right to know.

I suspect that claim wouldn’t stand up to an FoI request. And I would hope local media is lodging such requests as we speak.

Under the FOI Act it would, probably under the review it would, under an ACAT appeal, probably not

LSWCHP LSWCHP 7:20 pm 09 Oct 12

poetix said :

astrojax said :

mr zierholz will be a godsend for the nursery….

I hope he has plans to grow beer plants.

Yeah. 🙂 When I saw the reference to Mr Zierholz, my immediate reaction was that the bloke must be a genius to be able to make all that sweet, sweet beer *and* be able to fit in a sideline of commercial horticulture as well.

I wonder if the beer Z-man and the plant Z-man are related?

poetix poetix 4:49 pm 09 Oct 12

astrojax said :

mr zierholz will be a godsend for the nursery….

I hope he has plans to grow beer plants.

astrojax astrojax 3:54 pm 09 Oct 12

mr zierholz will be a godsend for the nursery – if his (sadly, due to bullyboy politics, never instantiated) grand plans for the regeneration of the parliament house gardens are any guide. the man has common sense and creative ingenuity – let’s hope the staff and his managerial colleagues provide him with the support he’ll need. not to mention his government overlords, i mean, owners…

[disclaimer: yes, he is known to me, but wouldn’t know me on this forum and these comments are my own]

PantsMan PantsMan 3:53 pm 09 Oct 12

I suspect that claim wouldn’t stand up to an FoI request. And I would hope local media is lodging such requests as we speak.

No, the local media are reporting that Katy has said it’s all OK now.

c_c c_c 3:16 pm 09 Oct 12

Deref said :

“Commercial in confidence” is grubbyment speak for “this is embarrassing”.

I’ll vote for anyone, even a Lib, who promises to get rid of it. We paid for it – we have a right to know.

I suspect that claim wouldn’t stand up to an FoI request. And I would hope local media is lodging such requests as we speak.

pirate_taco pirate_taco 2:55 pm 09 Oct 12

Deref said :

“Commercial in confidence” is grubbyment speak for “this is embarrassing”.

I’ll vote for anyone, even a Lib, who promises to get rid of it. We paid for it – we have a right to know.

You’re in luck.
Pirate Party Australia and its ACT branch are committed to freedom of information as we believe it is the only way to ensure an open democracy.
There is no justification to the use of commercial-in-confidence classifications to prevent the release of financial information for a government owned business.

Our candidates are
Molonglo – Stuart Biggs
Brindabella – Mark Gibbons
Ginninderra – Glen Takkenberg

Vote for a pirate on Oct 20th.

Glen Takkenberg
Pirate Party ACT

Madam Cholet Madam Cholet 2:26 pm 09 Oct 12

EvanJames said :

Madam Cholet said :

Not good news in the run up to an election, along with dodgy Health dept. stats. It’s pretty obvious from just looking at the place that it is well on its way down the gurgler. I always go in the one next door. Does this government know anything about the departments and agencies under its auspices?

(apostrophes fixed).
If you read the article, you’ll learn that “the one next door” is the private entity that was benefiting from the actions of the now-departed ACT Government nursery employee.

Apologies for the apostrophe catastrophe. I’m sure you never make typos on the run. But anyway, I digress…I am aware that the other one is privately owned – it’s quite obvious just by looking. I go there quite a bit and it’s obviously run like a business – shock horror.

Deref Deref 2:21 pm 09 Oct 12

“Commercial in confidence” is grubbyment speak for “this is embarrassing”.

I’ll vote for anyone, even a Lib, who promises to get rid of it. We paid for it – we have a right to know.

EvanJames EvanJames 2:03 pm 09 Oct 12

Madam Cholet said :

Not good news in the run up to an election, along with dodgy Health dept. stats. It’s pretty obvious from just looking at the place that it is well on its way down the gurgler. I always go in the one next door. Does this government know anything about the departments and agencies under its auspices?

(apostrophes fixed).
If you read the article, you’ll learn that “the one next door” is the private entity that was benefiting from the actions of the now-departed ACT Government nursery employee.

Diggety Diggety 2:00 pm 09 Oct 12

It’s no secret governments are crap when it comes to running businesses (or even owning them for that matter).

Sell them.

PantsMan PantsMan 1:22 pm 09 Oct 12

One employee sacked, millions missing or just lost, long-term unprofitability, and a few mates appointed to the board. All seems pretty much in order. I mean, no one got a Lexus!

pirate_taco pirate_taco 1:15 pm 09 Oct 12

Sounds like new manager Martin Zierholz has a good plan for getting Yarralumla nursery back on track, but it’s disappointing that the ACT Government has hid the problem using claims of commercial-in-confidence.
Labor talks a lot about transparency and accountability, but seems to fall short where it is politically inconvenient.

I also don’t believe the claim that it was impossible for them to distribute 133,000 plants to schools or community organisations instead of mulching them. All it would have taken is an email memo to go out offering them for free and interested organisations could have removed them for free.
Unless the plants were killed by incompetence before they needed to be mulched?

Returning the focus of the nursery onto the propagation of species that are suited to our regions climate for commercial and government planting programs is a good move.

My other question is why was the nursery allowed to devolve to such a low level until we paid an outside auditing firm (Oakton) to check in after the nursery ran out of money and asked for more?
We have a government organisation that is already tasked with doing this – the ACT Auditor-General’s office, however a quick check through their last decade of reports does not show any evidence that they did an audit of Yarralumla Nursery.
Given that they have only published 7 to 10 audit reports a year, perhaps we should put a bit more funding into this department so that we can detect this sort of problem in the future?

Glen Takkenberg
Pirate Party ACT for Ginninderra

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