Floriade's exclusive tenure at Commonwealth Park looks to be at an end after this year's flower festival as the ACT government considers splitting the event over various city sites.
The government's five-year contract with the National Capital Authority ends this year, and the authority is keen to reclaim at least some of the park for year-round use.
At present, Floriade takes over a large area for eight months. Beds are being planted already for the month-long spring festival, after which the park is restored to grass.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said on Wednesday the authority had "indicated that the current footprint won't be available to us in the future".
As a result, the government was looking to run the event across different areas, such as West Basin (the lakefront between the city and the museum), Glebe Park, which could host NightFest, and the city. The festival would continue to have a presence in Commonwealth Park.
"So, yes, the event will need to evolve, but it was always going to because it needs to refresh to offer a contemporary tourism experience," he said.
With paid parking in the parliamentary triangle, the government was also facing big parking costs at Commonwealth Park. The Regatta Point spaces were expected to cost $185,000 this year. Paid parking began during Floriade last year, resulting in a $57,000 parking bill from the National Capital Authority.
National Capital Estate executive director Helen Badger said no decisions had been made but the National Capital Authority was working with the ACT to "refresh and revitalise" the festival.
"It has been running under the same format for a long time. Commonwealth Park is a great asset and we would like to have the opportunity to see if there's other things we can do there," she said.
The authority wanted the park used more often and year-round and to ensure Canberrans weren't put off heading there for a lunchtime picnic because it was a Floriade construction site for much of the year.
It also had an eye to the City to the Lake project, which would mean more people wanting to use the park.
"Floriade has taken up a large part of Commonwealth Park for many years and it does mean that for many months of the year the park doesn't look in its best condition and isn't presented in its best possible way," Ms Badger said. "So this is an opportunity for the ACT government and the NCA to review what is best for Commonwealth Park and for Floriade."
The park could include more permanent Floriade planting beds, as well as the festival extending to other parks.
"Certainly, we wouldn't want to say, 'no, the gates are locked, you're not going to be there'," she said. "We acknowledge Floriade is a very, very important activity on the calendar for the ACT and we will do whatever fits in with our capacity to enhance it and keep it going."
The Canberra Business Council's tourism industry advisory council chairman, David Marshall, said he understood the authority's desire to reclaim the park but there was no reason for the festival to move completely.
"What we'd say is that it's critically important that the ACT government extend the reach of Floriade throughout the city to make it a national capital-wide festival and now is the impetus, I think, to do something different, similar to what Ottawa does with its tulip festival."
He suggested utilising the area between the National Library and the lake, the Kingston foreshore, parts of the National Arboretum, and further afield to Eddison Park in Woden and parts of Gungahlin.
However, Mr Barr said the government was initially considering the city, with the arboretum not ready yet.
Mr Marshall, who chaired Floriade in the early 1990s, said as far back as 1993 organisers were looking for a more permanent site.
The ACT government paid the National Capital Authority $107,000 last year for Floriade.
The authority said it was "cost recovery" only.
All up, the event cost the ACT government $5 million last year, including staff costs and NightFest, with $47 million of economic benefits to the city.