Director profile: Josh Byrne

By Gabrielle Stannus

Best known for his role as the WA presenter on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia program, Josh Byrne is also an environmental scientist, landscape designer, author, research academic and Director on the Greenlife Industry Australia board.

Josh Byrne’s love for horticulture and gardening stems from his early childhood in Esperance, a small coastal town on Western Australia’s south coast where his interest in that state’s flora was ignited. As a young teenager living in Perth, Josh started helping his father, an avid cook and herb grower, in the garden. “By the time I was 14, I was a very keen novice gardener and had set up my first veggie garden,” Josh recounts, “Although still a hobby at this age, gardening did influence my choice of subjects at school, eventually leading me to study environmental science.”

By the time Josh was 18, he had his own part-time gardening round which helped to fund the first part of his university degree. Midway through his studies, Josh gained employment as a research assistant working on small-scale environmental technologies for remote and regional communities. During this time, Josh continued to garden, turning the rundown rental property he lived in into a thriving permaculture garden. This garden attracted the attention of ABC TV with Josh appearing as a guest on Gardening Australia. Soon after he was offered a job as a regular presenter on that show.

In 2005, Josh started his own Fremantle-based consultancy, initially focussing on residential garden design. Josh Byrne & Associates (JBA) is now a multi award-winning practice integrating the fields of landscape architecture, built environment sustainability and communications. “JBA focuses on projects that are looking to create positive outcomes for environment and community,” says Josh, “We see landscape design as a vehicle for improving the sustainability of cities and towns, as well as people’s well-being and lifestyle.”

Josh was an early advocate of the 202020 Vision (Greener Places, Better Spaces) during his six-year term on the Industry Advisory Committee with Horticulture Australia (now Hort Innovation). “For me, it was a very promising sign that the industry was beginning to see the bigger picture about the role of urban horticulture in making cities more sustainable places,” says Josh.

When the call for directors for the newly formed Greenlife Industry Australia went out last year, Josh saw a way for him to contribute further to the industry and to help it continue to lead in this space. “Working in design and in media, I have had a lot to do with the greenlife industry, both as a storyteller and as a designer and specifier of plants. I would always know who the good nurseries were and the plant stock that was out there,” Josh explains, “Seeing the nursery and garden industry rebadged as Greenlife Industry Australia reminds us that we are more than just a cottage plant production industry. Amenity horticulture is a key part of making cities sustainable and liveable.”

Josh currently chairs Greenlife Industry Australia’s Marketing and Communications Committee and is keen to contribute his environmental credentials to this organisation’s new sustainability portfolio. Having gained a PhD in 2016 after investigating Mains Water Neutral Gardening: An integrated approach to water conservation in sustainable urban gardens, Josh continues to remain active in academia. He currently holds an adjunct senior research fellowship position at Curtin University, creating linkages with industry to identify opportunities for demand-led research around sustainable precincts and urban development. Josh recently published The Sustainable House Handbook. This practical guide to building an affordable, energy- and water-efficient green home was based on Josh’s experience planning and building his family home.

Josh also sits on the board of the Waste Authority of Western Australia. He is a Patron of both the Conservation Council of WA and Sustainable Gardening Australia, and an Ambassador for Nature Play WA. However, despite his busy schedule, Josh makes time for recreation, and yes, gardening is his number one hobby. “I just love it. It is my downtime. It is my exercise. I find time every weekend, almost without fail, to be in the garden,” says Josh. He also loves preserving, pickling and cooking the food that comes out of his family’s garden, as evident on his Instagram account, and travelling with his partner and children.

Not as well-known though is Josh’s love for test cricket. “My idea of heaven is the Boxing Day test match, when I can put my feet up and watch the cricket. Because of the time difference (between Fremantle and Melbourne), it finishes early here, and I can be out in the garden for the afternoon. Every year since we have had kids, my Christmas present from the family has been to get this time off. The serious holiday parenting starts after that. During this time, I think I am the luckiest person in the world!