The Bill Cunnington Fernery, located in Alexandra Park, could become a thriving community space with Bundaberg Regional Council calling for ideas on how to utilise and better purpose the area.
The large timber structure has been used primarily for the storage of plants and equipment until now, with discussions underway to transform the building while honouring the man who it was named after.
William (Bill) Cunnington was employed with Bundaberg City Council (now Bundaberg Regional Council) as the garden’s curator for 33 years, contributing to the development of Buss Park and Alexandra Park.
He served in the army during World War 1 with the 12th Company Camel Corps and the 14th and 15th Light Horse Brigades.
When Bill passed away on 7 November 1988, it was decided that a fernery, which was being constructed in Alexandra Park, would be named in his honour.
Currently, the fernery is being used by Bundaberg Regional Council for storage and has previously housed the Old MacDonald’s Travelling Farm visits.
It is located at Alexandra Park, near the bandstand.
Bill has proud history with local parks and gardens
Bill's family, including granddaughter Desley Cunnington, have given their blessing for a fernery refurbishment project to take place.
“I can see the potential for this space to be something for the people,” she said.
“If we can achieve that, it would be wonderful.
“What I would also really love to see is some sort of memorial for my grandfather’s achievements and what he has done for the region.”
Those achievements are something Desley said were born from Bill’s passion for his job at Council and his love for the local parks and gardens.
“He was very respected, he got along really well with the men he worked with, and he would always volunteer to do anything to do with parks and gardens,” she said.
“He was a judge at flower shows and also did a lot of work with the zoo here, in fact he brought the first monkeys to the zoo and that is how Alexandra Park got its nickname, the monkey zoo.
“I remember he used to tell us one of the monkeys always would steal his hat and wouldn't give it back!
“He also brought in other animals like the deer and the crocodile.”
Desely said Bill had a family of ten, with many of his children born in a house near the caravan park, just down from Alexandra Park Zoo.
“He was responsible for setting up Finemore Caravan Park and the area was pretty special for the family,” she said.
“They claimed from the zoo to the other end of Queen's Park, which was the Botanic Gardens back in those days, was their playground.”
Desley said one of her grandfather’s most memorable career highlights was beautifying the region for the Queen's visit in 1954.
“As soon it was announced, he started planting flowers and things that would be needed in Buss Park,” she said.
“I believe he planted marigolds and caletheas because of the gold colour.”
Not only was Bill known for his passion for plants, but he was also highly regarded for his tree pruning ability.
“He used to get a lot of comments about how he pruned trees, particularly the fig trees that we have in Woongarra Street and some in Maryborough Street,” she said.
“He would design them like a wine glass, so the branches didn't interfere with the powerlines while making the streets much lighter.
“He used to do this pruning by going up a wooden ladder and using a handsaw.
“All of this work he loved to do, and he was never, ever without a hat.”
Community to have a say on Bill Cunnington Fernery
Bundaberg Regional Council is now seeking feedback from the community on future options for the Bill Cunnington Fernery structure before any refurbishments take place.
In addition to the fernery, the project also includes the refurbishment of two seating areas.
The survey is now open and will close at midnight on Sunday 16 April 2023.
The survey and project information can be accessed on Council’s Our Bundaberg Region website.
The community can request hard copies of the survey by phoning Council on 1300 883 699 or by emailing Council at email@example.com