New development and investment in infrastructure provide an opportunity to improve the necessary health and quality of the District’s waterways, foreshores and riparian corridors, through improving public access to, and along, the foreshores; providing connected green space around the foreshores; conserving cultural heritage; protecting and enhancing flora, fauna, and urban bushland; reducing erosion and sedimentation; which improves bank stabilisation; promoting pervious surfaces; providing riparian vegetation buffers; and recovering and reinstating more natural conditions in highly modified waterways.
Enhancing community access to the coast and waterways within the District and, in particular, the foreshores of Sydney Harbour should be prioritised. This includes access for pedestrians as well as boats and other watercraft. The delivery of the Greater Sydney Green Grid will enhance connections to Sydney Harbour, the Parramatta River and the coastline from Botany Bay to Watsons Bay. Further information on delivering the Green Grid is outlined in Planning Priority E17.
Legislation, policies and plans are in place to improve the health of waterways and to manage water resources. For example, the Coastal Management Act 2016 integrates coastal management and land use planning, and the Fisheries Management Act 1994 protects aquatic biodiversity. The NSW Water Quality and River Flow Objectives identify high-level goals for several catchments in the District. NSW Government agencies and councils also manage the health of waterways through planning and development decisions, environmental programs and through the management of public land.
The Metropolitan Water Plan 2017 is the NSW Government’s plan to ensure there is sufficient water to meet the needs of the people and environment of the Greater Sydney region, now and for the future. It established the WaterSmart Cities Program, which will explore new ways to supply drinking water, and manage stormwater and wastewater in a more integrated, cost-effective and sustainable way.
The Marine Estate Management Authority has prepared the draft Marine Estate Management Strategy 2018-28 which, when finalised, will support a clean, healthy and productive marine environment.
This District Plan aims to protect and improve the environmental health of waterways. Many councils have identified and mapped environmentally sensitive areas of waterways that are important to the local community and use additional local provisions and natural waterways and environment zones to protect these areas.
For local waterways, where governance and ownership of the waterway can be highly fragmented, a green infrastructure approach, which values waterways as infrastructure, can lead to more innovative management of waterways with outcomes that better reflect community expectations.
An integrated approach to the protection and management of waterways will also rely on more comprehensive approaches to the monitoring and reporting of water quality and waterway health. Councils monitor water quality and waterway health, implement sustainable urban water management approaches and encourage water-sensitive urban design.
The District Plan aims to integrate the objectives for waterways that are set out in legislation, policies and plans, by prioritising the management of waterways as green infrastructure. This involves:
- reconceptualising waterways as an infrastructure asset that provides environmental, social and economic benefits to communities
- integrating approaches to protecting environmentally sensitive waterways within a larger network of green infrastructure
- addressing the cumulative impacts of development and land management decisions across catchments in a way that improves water quality and waterway health.
Collaboration and coordination across levels of government and with the community is needed to deliver the green space, urban cooling and integrated water management outcomes needed to support the Eastern City District.
Future work will apply the lessons from previous management of the District’s rivers notably the Parramatta River Catchment Group and the Cooks River Alliance that facilitate a coordinated approach to the management of the Parramatta and Cooks rivers.
Managing water quality and waterway health continues to be a significant challenge, given the highly urbanised nature of the catchments, the changes to the shoreline following reclamation for infrastructure, and the legacy of groundwater contamination from historical industrial activity.
Bore water usage needs consideration of how it impacts on aquifers and groundwater dependent ecosystems and how it supports efficient use of water resources.
Catchment-scale management and coordination can:
- solve multiple problems – for example, catchment condition and water scarcity, or addressing water quality impacts on aquifers, estuaries and the marine estate
- set objectives for the District’s waterways and enable them to be achieved in innovative and cost-effective ways
- enable both public and private benefits to be achieved – for example, stormwater from private land could provide a benefit to public management of green space and urban waterways
- promote integrated water cycle management and investment in sustainable water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure.
Strategic planning needs to manage the cumulative impact of activities and associated infrastructure such as moorings, marinas and boat launching facilities while ensuring public access to the waterways and opportunities for swimming, and small boat and kayak launching from publicly owned land. Access to waterways should not compromise the integrity of environmentally sensitive aquatic and riparian habitats.
Sydney Harbour is one of Greater Sydney’s most recognised and valuable assets – it is part of what makes Sydney one of the most attractive and recognisable cities in the world. The Harbour and its tributaries also act as a major transport corridor, flora and fauna habitat and recreation area. It is a significant natural scenic feature with its many tributaries, estuaries, beaches and bays providing abundant biodiversity. Associated with the Harbour is a rich environmental heritage including natural, Aboriginal and built heritage.
Public access to Sydney Harbour and its foreshore is important for water-based activities, especially where adjacent to public open space. To ensure access to Sydney Harbour foreshores should be maintained and increased wherever possible.
Sydney Harbour is a major economic asset and makes a significant contribution to tourism as a place for major cultural events, including New Year’s Eve, Vivid and Australia Day celebrations. It is also a working waterway, supporting defence and military operations, cruise ships, commercial shipping, recreational watercraft industries, ferries and water taxis. There are port facilities at Glebe Island/White Bay and refined fuel is imported at Gore Cove.
Cruise ship activity has grown rapidly and future growth will need to be managed carefully to avoid conflicts with other harbour users and nearby residential areas. Planning Priority E9 sets out actions to help manage working waterways. Collaboration is required to resolve conflicts between recreational, residential and industry users.
Currently, Sydney Regional Environmental Plan (Sydney Harbour Catchment) 2005 provides a framework to maintain, protect and enhance the catchment, foreshores, waterways and islands of Sydney Harbour. There may be opportunities to take a more comprehensive view as to how major waterways and their foreshore across Greater Sydney are managed and protected.