Words by Roy Weavers | Images by Raine Ward
Nicky Swan, CEO Botanic Gardens, Mossman
This area is unique and a land of opportunity.
It’s not often you are lucky enough to meet someone in tropical north of Queensland who has walked to the North Pole, loves to holiday in Africa and counts herself as lucky to have discovered her beloved Daintree Rainforest home just by sticking a pin in the map!!
But Nicky Swan, CEO Mossman Botanic Gardens is just that character. Coming originally from the famous borough of Notting Hill in West London, she admits she had no idea what living ‘off the grid’ meant, and that that ignorance was bliss and generated a lifestyle that she had only previously dreamed of. It obviously agrees with her because she is now a 21 year resident of her secret idyl in the World Heritage Daintree Rainforest and has filled her life with a myriad of achievements that would leave most other people in her wake. Not least of which was walking with her then husband to the North Pole in 1994.
She admits she had no idea what living ‘off the grid’ meant, and that that ignorance was bliss and generated a lifestyle that she had only previously dreamed of
Nicky has always considered Australia to be a land of opportunity and since arriving back in 2000 has put her considerable energy into everything she has undertaken.
Many Port Douglas locals will remember her amazing gift and fashion emporium called No.5 down on Wharf Street. She describes it more as a destination rather than just a shop. It had an energy of it’s own and attracted both locals and tourists and on more than one occasion entertained many of the rich and famous of the day. She was once asked to shut the shop to accommodate a Hollywood star, who was filming in Port Douglas, for some private shopping. Nicky refused the request and met the actress to explain that the whole experience of the shop was the fusion of all creatures great and small and persuaded the Hollywood star, much to her handlers chagrin, to pop in. She consequently chatted with other shoppers without annoyance or interference and had a ‘fat old time’ checking out all the amazing ‘assemblage’ of goodies, and much to Nicky’s relief, spent a fortune!!
This personifies Nicky. She is a ‘Big Picture’, positive person who has to believe in whatever she takes on. She loves holidaying in Africa where she enjoys it’s majesty, breath of environment and the warmth of the people. So it’s not surprising that she admires David Attenborough because, as she explains, he never waivers from his quest for the environment and it’s importance. And that is how she feels about all her ambitions for this area.
Her father was a great influence in this philosophy. It is a serious talent but comes with great responsibility. Because you have to be sure you are right!
This determined attitude is very much Nicky’s mantra. She has such a powerful personality which more often than not means she gets things done her way but she never disrespects her opposition or the counter argument. Her father was a great influence in this philosophy. It is a serious talent but comes with great responsibility. Because you have to be sure you are right!
Her current project is the building and opening of the Mossman Botanic Gardens. She was part of the original team that set out the Master Plan and Business plan for the Gardens and is working tirelessly now as CEO to get the architectural plan finalized and the formidable funds ($70m) raised. In just the last year (2021) her organizational skills have seen the first stage open with the ‘Garden of Woven Memories’ being established. With the political and philanthropic support she and the board of Directors are gathering, this global venture will be built in the very near future and generate the acknowledged wealth of opportunity for Mossman and the Douglas Shire.
Nicky has no time for people who have entitlement as a community background. Anything that is worth having is worth working for and often that requires a change of approach. She believes, that just as with the ambition of the Botanic Gardens, Mossman is completely unique and a region of opportunity and if we could only stop referencing elsewhere we will all realize just how amazing this location is already and allow the area to embrace the progress within it’s grasp.
Her tropical tip is a simple one, ‘Find a local and ask them where they go to spend their leisure time. The secret locations revealed will undoubtedly excite and enthrall you and most locals are more than happy to share’.
And finally Nicky confirms that the most important thing she has learnt in life is to smile every day. Oh, and only drink expensive champagne at breakfast, lunch and dinner. She explains, “It doesn’t matter how pressured life gets, a smile will always make you remember that it’s life that matters, treating people the way you want to be treated and choosing projects that make a difference…I’m lucky I’m on that path!!”