History of Wollongong campus landscape

Wollongong Campus occupies a site of 82.4 hectares beside the escarpment of Mount Keira. Looking around the Wollongong Campus today is hard to imagine that the site of was once cleared farmland. Wollongong Campus now occupies land that was once the old Orange Grove dairy farm on Northfields Avenue (Hartgerink, 2011). The farmhouse was located near the upper portion of the southern creek near O'Leary's Road.

Before the site was cleared for farming it would have contained rainforest as well as moist and dry sclerophyll forest.  In 1962 when the first buildings of the Wollongong University College were built the site was cleared paddocks with little vegetation.  The vegetation present was a few large Morton Bay Figs and some isolated stands of vegetation along the creek lines.

Orange grove farm in 1950's. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/uowarchives/6243043666/in/album-72157627787997885/

Image: Orange Grove farm in 1950s. Source: Flickr

Aerial view Wollongong campus 1963, source https://www.flickr.com/photos/uowarchives/5510332565/in/album-72157626101754067/

Image: Wollongong Campus in 1963. Source: Flickr

Landscape concept

In the 1970s work began to transform the campus into what it is today. A buildings and grounds committee was created and a Landscape Master Plan adopted.  The plan focused on making the campus pedestrian friendly and to plant native vegetation (Hartgerink, 2011).

The concept of the ring road circling the campus was implemented. Ony pedestrians, bikes and service vehicles are allowed within the ring road area (Taylor Brammer, 2013). This has led to a greater ability to create the landscaped areas that we have now.

Native plantings

The first UOW Landscape Supervisor, Leon Fuller was employed during the 1970s to transform the site.  The landscape team under Leon’s supervision commenced planting (Hartgerink, 2011).

Many local native plants were unable to be purchased in those days.  Instead the Landscape team created their own plant nursery.  They collected local native plant seeds and began propagating seedlings. Approximately 50,000 trees and shrubs have been planted on campus since 1975.

A number of significant trees are located on campus including the large Turpentine (Syncarpia glomulifera).  This tree is located next to the P3 carpark and was present on the site in the 1950s.

Ponds and water features

A number of ponds and water features been built to provide flood mitigation, amenity and habitat. The central water feature of the campus landscape is the Duckpond. The Duckpond and surrounding planting and lawns was created in 1979.

In 1994 another iconic water feature was built called the Keiraview ponds and stream.  This pond is now known as the McKinnon Pond.  The stream runs from Building 30 to the pond and is pumped back to Buildng 30.  

Duckpond under construction 1979

Image: Duckpond under construction in 1979.

Duckpond in 1980, source https://www.flickr.com/photos/uowarchives/17328011471/in/album-72157626101771319/

Image: Duckpond in 1980. Source: Flickr

Wildlife corridor and habitat

The native plants and ponds on the campus provide habitat for a range of animals.  The campus is a key part of the east-west wildlife corridor connecting the escarpment with the sea.  Approximately 162 native animal species are known to inhabit or visit the campus.

 

Echidna are often seen wandering at Wollongong campus

Image: Echidna spotted wandering on Wollongong Campus.  Photography courtesy of A Wardle.

Satin Bowerbird with chick

Image: Bowerbird with chick, Wollongong Campus. Photography courtesy of A Wardle. 

Managing and maintaining the landscape vision

During 1985 to 2012 the focus was on preserving the campus plantings and providing input into new landscape design and development.  Plantings of native species continued but much less so than in the early days. 

In 2009 bush regeneration and weed management in the remnant vegetation areas of the campus commenced. A Vegetation Management Plan was prepared in 2009 by Andres Bofelt and Marcus Burgess.  Anders and Marcus discovered an endangered ecological community (Illawarra Subtropical Rainforest) and a population of the threatened species (Cynanchum elegans) on the UOW escarpment land.

In 2012, UOW was awarded grant funding for a 5 year bush regeneration project at UOW, TAFE Illawarra and RMS lands. This project involved the UOW Bushcare Club and local high schools in activities.

The landscape team are now working on maintaining the vision of the campus landscape but there are many challenges including:

  • maintaining amenity and balancing development pressures
  • managing safety and risks
  • managing fauna and habitat.

References

  • Hartgerink, N (2011), Regional Icon Global Achiever A history of the University of Wollongong 1951-2011, University of Wollongong.
  • Taylor Brammer (2013) University of Wollongong, Wollongong Campus Landscape Master Plan.
  • UOW Archives - Flickr