Michael Tichbon OAM Patron of Friends of Kings Park

17 October, 2020

I am greatly honoured to receive this recognition as the first Patron of THE FRIENDS for my efforts in supporting your activities, particularly to encourage West Australians to become involved in growing our own WA native plants.

I first visited Kings Park in 1952 when on school holidays at a friend’s in Subiaco, after having caught the tram in Hay Street, and ended up at the end of the line near Kings Park.

From that time on, my family visited the Park when in Perth and usually had lunch at the restaurant, which was very popular when overseas liners were in Fremantle.

Later my mother and many of her friends were very active in stopping the construction of an Olympic sized swimming pool in the Park. Harry Howard was the Perth City Lord Mayor from 1955 to 1964 and was promoting the swimming pool be built for the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.
I recall this issue caused huge community debate.

The ladies were particularly good at lobbying state members of parliament to vote against the land being released for the pool’s construction. Two attempts to carry legislation permitting the pool failed.

Prior to the commencement of the Botanic Garden, there was a request for the public to supply native seeds, and we were happy to assist.

Subsequently, my mother and our family were invited to the official opening of the Botanic Garden, which I was honoured to attend 55 years ago.
This was held on a Monday morning, 4th October 1965.

I still have the original invitation, which is here for you to view this evening.

Dignitaries who attended the Official Opening of the Botanic Garden in King’s Park were:

Sir Thomas William Meagher, President of the King’s Park Board, and Sir Thomas held this position from 1954 to 1979.
Also, in attendance was the Premier, the Hon. David Brand MLA and John Stanley Beard, who was the foundation Director of the Kings Park & Botanic Garden between 1961 and 1970.

Horticulture and studying and growing native plants has been my life’s interest, so when invited to come and discuss funding the propagation of new plants, by my friend Brian Piesse, who was a Board Member at the time, I cautiously accepted.

And it is a decision that I have not regretted.

I see great potential in WA native plants for their use throughout the world, and in particular with our drying climate.

Unfortunately, successive state governments do not appear to see the potential value of our rare and unique flora as much as I would like, and having been a keen observer of our flora’s demise all my life, I have come to the conclusion that vast amounts of our rare vegetation is doomed in its natural state unless there is a rapid and significant change in attitude.

Following the initial wide scale clearing for farms there are many other reasons for native vegetation loss.

Firstly, the remaining areas of bushland are being nibbled away by the approval of clearing permits for road widening, mining and extractive industries, residential development, bush fire protection etc.

Secondly, there is a gradual and insidious infiltration of weeds into bushland and road verges, with few attempts made to stop them.

Thirdly, there is increasing damage caused by grazing animals, including feral animals such as rabbits, wild pigs, deer etc., whilst in more confined areas, too many kangaroos are destroying the remaining remnants.

There are probably many other more localised reasons for bushland decline, but I consider that those are some of the main ones.

The weed and feral animal problem has greatly increased since the government at the time in its wisdom, some years ago, decided to discontinue the Agricultural Protection Board (the APB) and introduce Biosecurity Groups, mainly run by inexperienced amateurs, who have no enforcement powers.

The State Road Verge Advisory Committee has also been abandoned, so there is no watch on the destruction of our outstanding road verges, which many tourists rely on to see our unique wildflowers.

We have the Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) to watch and protect our outstanding natural assets which are supervised and managed by the talented and dedicated staff members of the Department.

However, weed management in some National Parks needs urgent attention and perhaps the Government should give consideration to providing additional funds for that purpose.

The Tuart Forest National Park, which is overgrown by Arum Lilies, and over-grazed by kangaroos, is one example of where more funding could be applied. While more rangers to help reduce the felling of dead forest trees for firewood would be most welcome.

There have been several trials which successfully demonstrate how the weed issues can be overcome, but successful trials are of little help if they are not implemented on a broad scale.

Many Shires are not helping to manage weeds on road verges and are allowing weeds to infiltrate reserves, so I am suggesting that I would like to assist in developing some form of basic bush management programme, so we can at least halt the loss of our unique vegetation, or it will be lost and all that tourists will see will be weeds and man-made structures.

How can all the other problems contributing to the steady decline of our bushland be overcome? A Vegetation Management Policy to guide us in the right direction would be a great help.

In times when it is difficult to get the public to join volunteer groups, it is very pleasing to see such a strong membership of this organisation.

Finally, I would once again like to thank the “Friends” for bestowing on me the honour of being their first Patron.

Thank you.

Michael Tichbon OAM