Plan to save Garden Awards as a biennial community-run event
October 3, 2018

Colac Otway Shire Councillors have thrown their collective weight behind a plan to save the Garden Awards and will see whether more funding and support can help a community group take over the reins on a biennial basis.

A recommendation to retire the awards at last week’s Council meeting was not supported by Councillors, who instead voted unanimously to try and rejuvenate the once popular competition.

Two community groups expressed interest in taking on the role earlier this year, but later declined due in part to the $2500 offered by the Council and the need for a full 12 months to plan and deliver a successful first event.

It is hoped last week’s decision will see one of those two groups appropriately funded to coordinate the awards every two years from 2019. The Council is also open to new groups coming forward to discuss the opportunity.

Mayor Joe McCracken said the awards had a proud 34-year history, but nominations had declined over the past three years and coordination by a community group, rather than the Council, was needed to reinvigorate interest.

“The awards were first held in 1983 as the Best Kept Secret Awards and expanded in 2002 to become the Home and Garden Awards before a name change to the Garden Awards in 2016,” he said.

“They recognise residents, and in the past businesses, for the care and attention they showed to their gardens.

“In their halcyon days, the Garden Awards engaged a lot of property owners and really added to our annual calendar of events, but we only had 20 nominations in 2015, 12 in 2016 and nine last year.

“The ‘street of the year’ category was removed last year due to a lack of nominations over a number of years. Unfortunately it became clear the awards were struggling to maintain community support in their current form.”

Cr McCracken said it would be a wonderful outcome for everyone if a community group took over the planning and delivered a successful event right across the Shire in 2019.

“Sometimes well-established events like this just lose momentum or get a bit tired and I think that’s what we’ve seen here, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be successful again,” he said.

“Councillors have asked officers to resume discussions with the two previously interested groups to assess their willingness to coordinate the awards every two years – potentially with a higher financial contribution from the Council. Maybe there are other groups as well that might be interested.

“We’ll see where these talks take us, but I’m confident we can find a way forward, that the Garden Awards will be saved and that they’ll once again become a popular feature on our local events calendar.”


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