Rio Tinto Naturescape

  • Providing alternative forms of public open space allow children to enjoy different forms of physical activity.
    Providing alternative forms of public open space allow children to enjoy different forms of physical activity.
  • Rio Tinto Naturescape
  • While children are active, they also get to learn about the WA landscape.
    While children are active, they also get to learn about the WA landscape.
  • The unstructured environment encourages and inspires children to explore.
    The unstructured environment encourages and inspires children to explore.
  • Rio Tinto Naturescape
Introduction

RioTinto Naturescape Kings Park uniquely and positively contributes to a local and regional sense of place. It also supports Kings Park and Botanic Garden’s vision for a community that is environmentally sustainable into the future. Many urban children miss out on the wonder of exploring and playing in nature. Rio Tinto Naturescape Kings Park is a unique place to learn through adventure and unstructured play. The space helps children to understand the sensitive Western Australian ecosystems, the importance of bushland and natural resources, all while benefiting from physical activity. It is devoted to connecting children with nature and learning about the Western Australian environment, local Aboriginal culture and the natural sciences. Covering six hectares and surrounded by natural bushland, the facility includes popular elements including a running creek with rocky banks, log bridges, climbing ropes, tree hides, a cubby building zone, bridges and meandering paths. Two thirds of the precinct is open to the general public and one third is a dedicated Education zone. Each section offers a unique experience, designed to appeal to children of different ages, personalities and abilities. Rio Tinto Naturescape Kings Park is currently closed for the construction of a Stage 2 development. From 2018, visitors can expect the gates to re-open with a new rock pool and a larger creek to paddle in, a 7-metre high 'sky scramble' aerial walkway, a rocky scarp to scramble over, more climbing ropes and nets and a new cubby-building zone. New outdoor teaching facilities will also be added to keep up with demand from schools for education programs.

Description of project

Rio Tinto Naturescape Kings Park is a place for children to connect with nature and learn to appreciate the Western Australian environment. The space provides children with a real ‘bush’ experience in the middle of the city, an experience not common for children in urban environments. Rio Tinto Naturescape Kings Park comprises 60,000 m2 of native bushland and trails located within Kings Park’s 400ha. It is a short walk from the main visitor hub of Kings Park, comprising cafes, the Visitor Information Centre and Aspects of Kings Park gallery shop, as well as the Western Australian Botanic Garden.  

Rio Tinto Naturescape provides a new experience for young children who, unlike their parents, are growing up indoors surrounded by technology, rather than outdoors. It supports the development of children’s motor skills, senses, emotion, intellect, personal growth and social skills.

The design of the Rio Tinto Naturescape is deliberately different from the structured play areas usually found in local parks. The space is natural with children being able to play in mud, climb on logs, build cubbies and paddle in water. A wheelchair accessible trail links different areas exposing children to a number of different environments. Trained volunteers and BGPA Nature Activities Officers assist children and parents to get the most out of the unique natural experience.

Project team
  • Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority
  • Friends of Kings Park
  • LotteryWest
  • Plan E Landscape Design
  • Rio Tinto
Project cost

Rio Tinto is providing funding of $8.65 million during its 12-year partnership. Lotterywest and the Water Corporation provided $3 million and $1 million respectively, along with additional support from the federal government’s past Solar Cities program.

Values

In addition to supporting a local and regional sense of place that is uniquely Western Australian and awareness of the need for biodiversity conservation, the project and work of the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority at Kings Park has a number of other health, economic, environmental, social and recreational benefits.

Health value
  • Spending time in nature provides children with a diversity of sights, sounds, smells and textures not normally experienced.This exposure to a natural environment supports the development of healthy mental and physical processes. 
Economic value
  • When Rio Tinto Naturescape Kings Park was established a new team of volunteers trained to support Rio Tinto Naturescape. The skills these volunteers have developed include familiarity with the site, working effectively with children, and general knowledge of flora and fauna.
  • The Kings Park Education program relies on support from a team of Naturescaper volunteers. This group of adults assist with the movement of school groups around the large site, resource preparation, activities within Rio Tinto Naturescape Kings Park, education lessons, and administration. 2015-16 recorded 1,456 volunteer hours. This is a 25% increase on the volunteer hours recorded in 2014-15.
  • In 2015-16, a total of 322 teachers and child care educators participated in 50 professional development sessions. The sessions familiarise the teachers with the philosophy and layout of the site, discuss safety considerations and help teachers with planning and ensuring their excursion is safe and successful.
  • In 2011, Rio Tinto Naturescape supported the training of 57 teachers and education professionals and 20 students from the University of Western Australia participating in teacher professional learning tours.
  • The Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority supports education with an integrated research focus on practical outcomes. The authority supervises post-graduate students, collaborates on major research projects, grants a limited number of summer scholarships for post-graduate work and has coordinated the University of Western Australia Master stream for over 9 years running certificate courses and traineeships.
Environmental value
  • Nearly two thirds of Kings Park is natural bushland containing 319 species of native plants and around 80 bird species. Children visiting the Rio Tinto Naturescape are introduced to some of these unique Western Australian species and the need to conserve our environment.
  • The Kings Park Science team undertakes major research projects which provide practical outcomes in the conservation of rare or threatened species and/or ecological restoration of native plant communities. This knowledge assists in the restoration/management of lands under the care of Kings Park and Bold Park and is applied to wider projects in Western Australia.
  • Planting of 17,000 native plants by staff and volunteers in 2012 added to the 23,000 planted the previous year to enhance Kings Park's bush setting.

 

Social value
  • Kings Park acknowledges and provides opportunities for education about both European and Indigenous culture. Mount Eliza, known as Kaarta Gar-up by the local Nyoongar people, has always been a significant gathering point for Aboriginal people.

  • Community consultation guided the design of Rio Tinto Naturescape. Some 231 public submissions were received through the public consultation process.

  • Rio Tinto Naturescape is understood to be an international first, designed to provide a range of unique activity nodes, carefully overlaid into existing bush vegetation to protect environmental values and sustainable outcomes. It provides a legacy for generations to interact, understand and preserve Western Australia’s unique environment. It is a positive and innovative way to preserve our sense of place.

Use value
  • Rio Tinto Naturescape Kings Park has established itself as a leader in connecting children with nature since it opened in October 2011. Since then, around 80,000 visitors have come each year,

  • In 2015-16, about 30% of visitation was from school groups attending booked education programs. The majority of visitation is from the general community, occurring predominately on weekends and during school holidays.

  • Rio Tinto Naturescape’s design attracts children aged 5 to 12 years and supports children with a range of abilities. The space features a tunnel, gully and boardwalks that are wheelchair accessible.

  • Consultation with more than 40 special needs groups provided feedback during the development of Rio Tinto Naturescape Kings Park for its first stage of development. A second community consultation strategy including children, families and experts from a range of sectors was undertaken in 2015 to prepare for Stage 2.

  • The Kings Park Education service has experienced a three-fold increase in demand since Rio Tinto Naturescape Kings Park became the new home of Kings Park Education in 2012. Each year 24,000 students take part in the Kings Park Education programs.

  • Nature Activity Officers delivered 119 free activities for young visitors in 2015-16, during the school holidays and on weekends. These activities included a range of nature-based arts, crafts and games and external presentations by environmental educators. In addition the Nature Activities Officers produced a highly successful series of self-guided challenge and activity brochures. It is estimated that over 17,000 children participated in at least one or more of these challenges.

  • Public access to the Rio Tinto Naturescape is via Transperth bus route 935 from the Perth CBD.

References

Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority Annual Report 2015/2016, Perth Western Australia

Rio Tinto Naturescape Kings Park, Sourced on 03 April 2017 from http://www.bgpa.wa.gov.au/kings-park/area/naturescape

Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority Annual Report 2011/2012, Perth Western Australia

Commissioned by Planet Ark, Planting Trees: Just What The Doctor Ordered Research Report, T.Ha, J.Lewin, B.Gray, A.Bowden, D.Agnew, S.Mc Gregor, J.Mc Callum, Z.Zhou, T.Glasson, L.Poisel and B.Visperas. (2012)

Rio Tinto Naturescape Kings Park, Sourced on 11 Dec 2012 from http://www.bgpa.wa.gov.au/education/naturescape

Type of project
Public Open Space
Scale of project
Individual Site
Location
Urban