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Designing with Country

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The Parramatta River Catchment Group (PRCG) is privileged to be working on a Designing with Country project for the Parramatta River catchment, in collaboration with Aboriginal landscape designer Yerrabingin, local Councils, Sydney Water and community members.

The project aims to develop a design framework for the Parramatta River catchment, which will assist councils with creating public cultural works that offer the community more meaningful ways to connect with and care for Country.

The framework will specify standards around the use of language, art, landscaping and other elements. It will also identify locations for future projects that may include murals, sculptures, tree plantings, gardens and heritage trails.

To support the project a research study of the Aboriginal history and culture of the Parramatta River catchment has been undertaken. A key part of the study is a collection of oral histories generously shared by Aboriginal people from the region. Their personal stories and reflections will contribute significantly to building a better understanding of First Nations people. The research study will be made available to local councils, libraries, schools and the wider community.

The Designing with Country project is funded through a grant under the Metropolitan Greenspace Program, which supports councils to deliver projects that improve regional open space and community liveability as part of the NSW Government’s vision for a ‘Green Grid’ across Greater Sydney and the Central Coast.

For more information, contact the PRCG Coordinator, Nell Graham, on 9121 0009 or at:


Walk on Country and Design Jam

To support the Designing with Country project, a Walk on Country was held in both the lower and upper Parramatta River catchment. Representatives from our member councils and other agencies and the community visited various sites along the Parramatta River and Duck River foreshore, Lake Parramatta and Blacktown Creek.

Yerrabingin facilitated two ‘Design Jams’ that enabled participants to share their ideas on new ways to experience the catchment’s waterways. The ideas from both workshops will contribute to the development of the design framework. Many thanks to everyone who came along to support these worthwhile events.

Watch a video about the Designing with Country project.


Image above: Parramatta Riverside Walk mural created by Ngemba artist Jamie Eastwood in 2000.


Greater Sydney Harbour Coastal Management Program

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The Parramatta River Catchment Group (PRCG) and Sydney Coastal Councils Group (SCCG) have partnered to develop a Greater Sydney Harbour Coastal Management Program (GSHCMP). The program aims to establish a long-term strategy for the coordinated management of the Greater Sydney Harbour catchment, to mitigate the potential adverse impacts of population growth, climate change (including sea-level rise) and catchment runoff.

The Greater Sydney Harbour catchment comprises four smaller catchments, including Parramatta River, Lane Cove River, Middle Harbour and the remaining foreshore areas draining into Port Jackson. As the centrepiece of Australia’s largest city, the harbour and its tributaries are subject to intense human activity which presents coastal managers with many challenges.

Developing a whole-of-catchment Coastal Management Program is a complex task involving 33 stakeholders. Participation by all levels of government and the community is key to achieving a strategic and coordinated management framework to improve waterway health outcomes.


Organisations involved in the Greater Sydney Harbour Coastal Management Program

The SCCG is the project manager for the GSHCMP Project Team, Steering Committee and Partners Group. Professor Bruce Thom from the NSW Coastal Council is the Chair.

The Project Team consists of members from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, NSW Coastal Council, NSW Environment Protection Authority, PRCG and the SCCG.

The Steering Committee assists in guiding the governance arrangements, cost sharing and development of the grant for the GSHCMP. It includes various state agency members, the SCCG, PRCG, Greater Sydney Commission, Transport NSW and Sydney Water.

The Partners Group assists the Steering Committee in ensuring appropriate consultation and collaboration across all relevant parties involved in the management and use of Sydney Harbour. The Partners Group is mainly comprised of local councils.

Read the Terms of Reference for the Steering Committee and Partners Group.


What is a Coastal Management Program?

The purpose of a Coastal Management Program (CMP) is to develop a long-term strategy for managing the coastal zone. CMPs take into consideration historical events, current conditions and future trends, such as population growth and climate change, to identify coastal management issues and the actions required to address them in a strategic and unified way.

There are five stages in the development of a CMP:

  • Stage 1: Identify the scope of a CMP
  • Stage 2: Determine risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities
  • Stage 3: Identify and evaluate options
  • Stage 4: Prepare, exhibit, finalise, certify and adopt the CMP
  • Stage 5: Implement, monitor, evaluate and report.

All coastal and estuarine NSW councils are required to develop a CMP, which replaces the Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) and Estuary Management Plan. CMPs are prepared by local councils in accordance with the coastal management manual, and in consultation with their communities and relevant public authorities.

The Greater Sydney Harbour CMPs will take a whole of catchment approach to address water quality issues for the Parramatta River and Sydney Harbour and are being developed in accordance with the Coastal Management Act (2016). The Act establishes specific roles and responsibilities for relevant Ministers, the NSW Coastal Council, public authorities and local councils, as well as providing opportunities for communities to participate when preparing and implementing a CMP.

Find out more about Coastal Management Programs.


Progress of the Greater Sydney Harbour Coastal Management Program

Stage 1 Scoping Study

The Stage 1 Scoping Study for the GSHCMP was completed in 2018 as a collaborative project involving stakeholders from local and state government, Sydney Water and the Sydney Institute of Marine Sciences.

The Scoping Study aimed to:

  • Identify opportunities for collaborative partnering in development of GSHCMP
  • Recommend whole-of-system approach
  • Outline a Preliminary Risk Assessment
  • Provide a Forward Plan
  • Detail studies that will contribute to Stage 2.

A Sydney Harbour Water Quality Improvement Plan was also completed, which provides a strong base for the development of the GSHCMP.


The scope of the GSHCMP

The Scoping Study focused on the four management areas defined in the Coastal Management Act (2016): wetlands and littoral rainforests, coastal use areas, coastal environment areas and coastal use areas. It also encompassed the tidal waterways of Port Jackson, Parramatta River, Lane Cove River, Middle Harbour and their catchments.

The Scoping Study recommended a whole-of-system approach with a long-term vision to:

  • Support the coordinated management and ecologically sustainable development of Greater Sydney Harbour to maintain its exceptional social, cultural, economic and environmental values, and symbolic status as Australia’s most globally iconic waterway.
  • Progress to the next stage (Stage 2) that will focus on coastal hazards and threats.


Stage 2 Planning Grant Application for the Coastal and Estuary Grants Program

In September 2021, the SCCG and PRCG were successful in securing a $274,000 grant through the NSW Government’s Coastal and Estuary Grants Program, to address the impact of urban stormwater discharge on receiving waters. The program aims to increase the resilience of coastal communities and implement actions to improve the health of the NSW coastlines and estuaries.

The funding will contribute towards the consolidation of all urban stormwater data, enabling individual councils to develop management actions that will be considered as part of the GSHCMP, in coordination with the management programs of state agencies.

The negative impacts of urban stormwater runoff on Greater Sydney Harbour was identified as a key issue in the Stage 1 Scoping Study.

The grant application involved the support of 20 councils in the Greater Sydney Harbour catchment. It is the largest collaboration of local government agencies to have received a NSW Government planning grant.

Read the Media Release from the Minister for Local Government


Regional Litter Prevention Strategy for Greater Sydney Harbour

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The Sydney Coastal Councils Group (SCCG) and Parramatta River Catchment Group (PRCG) have completed the development of the Regional Litter Prevention Strategy (RLPS) for the Greater Sydney Harbour catchment.

Funded by the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) in the Own It and Act: Round 6 Community Litter Grant funding stream, the strategy will create a unified and coordinated approach to litter prevention across Greater Sydney Harbour catchments.

The RLPS outlines the actions that aim to support litter reduction targets in the NSW Government’s Waste and Materials Strategy 2041, including a 30 per cent reduction in plastic litter by 2025, and a 60 per cent reduction of all litter items by 2030. The strategy will provide a regional approach to litter prevention, and embed litter reduction activities into council policy, strategy and programs, to help reduce the volume of litter entering Sydney Harbour and associated waterways.

In August 2021, a community perception survey around litter and littering behaviour was conducted with the results informing the priority actions for the RLPS. A Community Litter Forum was held online in October 2021 to consult on the draft strategy. A draft of the strategy was approved by the EPA in May 2022 and distributed to all stakeholders in the second half of 2022.

Click here to read the full draft Regional Litter Prevention Strategy.

Standardise the Standards – Final Recommendations Paper

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The Parramatta River flows through the geographic heart of Sydney and one of the fastest growing regions in Australia. Making the river swimmable delivers on the sustainability and liveability goals in the Greater Sydney Commission’s District Plans and is core to achieving the vision for Sydney’s Central River City.

Step 4 of the Parramatta River Masterplan is focused on reviewing the strategic and statutory planning frameworks that contribute to delivering our vision for a world class river. Working closely with our partners, our review has resulted in the release of a recommendations paper, Strategic and Statutory Planning Review to Create Our Living River.

The paper sets out three broad areas for planning reform:

  1. Simple updates to council’s Local Environment Plans (LEPs) and Development Control Plans (DCPs), to adopt over the next few years. These changes will ensure that development does more to reduce stormwater pollution and foster healthy ecosystems.
  2. Developing, piloting and adopting two new frameworks for improving waterway health outcomes in new development:
    • A Blue Green Index Tool for assessing development applications
    • A Blue Green Grid for riparian mapping
  3. Working with our project partners and stakeholders to strengthen and support waterway health considerations in all planning approval pathways. This will require broader reform beyond the remit of local government.

Standardise the Standards – Final Recommendations Paper
Download the full Final Recommendations Paper

Recommendations Paper Executive Summary
Download the Recommendations Paper Executive Summary


To get an overview of this planning reform work, please watch this short video.

Final Recommendations Paper Webinar Series

The consultancy team from Civille and Macquarie University held a series of short webinars in order to share the key recommendations in the recently released paper for Step 4Strategic and Statutory Planning Review to Create Our Living River and get attendees thinking about how we move the recommendations into implementation.

Webinar 1: Improving local planning provisions for diffuse stormwater pollution and waterway health

This webinar provides council and agency staff with an overview of the drivers for policy reform to address the issues of diffuse stormwater pollution and waterway health in new development. It covers the recommendations contained within the recently released paper for Step 4: Strategic and Statutory Planning Review to Create Our Living River, focusing on the two key policy directions: the blue green index for WSUD and green infrastructure and the blue-green grid of waterway and riparian land. The webinar then goes into some detail on the actions specific to councils on updating their Local Environment Plans and Development Control Plans.


Webinar 2: A blue-green index to reduce diffuse stormwater pollution

This webinar introduces the proposed new blue-green index tool. We explain how we think this new tool can address the complex planning issues that exist in stormwater management in Sydney. We also look at the proposed features of this new tool and compare it to similar tools that have been adopted in Australia and elsewhere. We will then go into the steps required to pilot the tool and a discussion on the challenges.


Webinar 3: Blue-green grid for improved waterway health

This webinar introduces the concept of a blue-green grid for the Parramatta River catchment. It is suitable for council and agency staff interested in waterway and catchment management, strategic planning and biodiversity conservation. We discuss the reasons why we need the blue-green grid, how it could be implemented across the catchment, and the next steps required to develop the grid.


Learn more about Step 4 of the Parramatta River Masterplan – Standardise the Standards.


Audit of stormwater devices on private properties

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The Parramatta River Catchment Group is working with our member Councils and WAVE Consulting on an innovative project that aims to understand the condition and maintenance cycles of stormwater devices installed on privately owned and managed properties in the last 5-10 years, within the Parramatta River catchment area.

Stormwater management devices, such as gross pollutant traps, on-site stormwater detention tanks and raingardens, play an important role in protecting our waterways from pollution and flooding. However, these devices need to be properly installed and maintained otherwise they can damage your property.

The audit project is part of the work being undertaken for Step 5 of the Parramatta River Masterplan: Reduce Stormwater Runoff. This step recommends the adoption of a regional approach to the installation, maintenance and reporting of stormwater infrastructure and water sensitive urban design (WSUD).

Stormwater runoff and all the pollutants and rubbish it carries with it is the primary way that the Parramatta River and its tributaries are polluted.

Councils and private property owners of new apartments and dual occupancy dwellings, and industrial or commercial properties, have responsibility for stormwater devices on their properties. Understanding how these devices are installed and maintained can help us to inform policy, develop education campaigns and monitor how we are tracking towards achieving a swimmable river.

Free inspections of stormwater devices on privately owned and managed properties

If you live in or manage a unit or apartment complex or an industrial or commercial property that has any of these devices, for a limited time we are offering FREE inspections to ensure they are working properly. Spaces are limited so if you would like to arrange an inspection, please click on the link below.

Book your free inspection