The Restoring the Waters project was born from an idea. A vision to improve the water quality and biodiversity of urban waterways and to slowly, incrementally restore our river corridors as part of a new and sustainable mosaic for the metropolis of Sydney.

Anticipating the future degeneration of existing drainage infrastructure, the project removed an old concrete lined storm water channel and reinstated a naturally functioning but manufactured creek as part of an urban storm water treatment system. The aim was to reduce pollution in the receiving waters.

Design outcome

The design builds on the unique urban ecology of the corridor encouraging its renewed public appreciation. The project did not attempt to return the stream to its original pristine condition but rather focused on creating a system that supports a more sustainable environment in harmony with urban living. In the process a creek and urban floodplain now form the foundation of a revitalized local park which implements total catchment management principles.

The project offered a strategy to contribute toward achieving the ecologically sustainable management of storm water and became an exemplar for restoration projects across Metropolitan Sydney. The collection, transport and utilisation of storm water was designed to reduce pollution downstream whilst enhancing the physical environment. Benefits include improved storm water quality, local biological diversity, habitat creation and greatly enhanced open space amenity that is highly valued by the local community.

Design process

The landscape architects’ took their original concept to the Australian Conservation Foundation. Together they applied to the NSW Environmental Trust for grant funding to realise the unique waterway restoration strategy.

The team assembled for the project balanced science, engineering, ecological and artistic vision in order to push the boundaries of what an urban ecological restoration project could become. The collaborative spirit of the project was extended to its implementation by inviting local councils to identify waterways for restoration.

As part of Clear Paddock Creek’s physical transformation process the project team examined the cultural context of the restoration work through a series of inspiring and interactive community arts programs. A temporary land art work ‘The Memory Line’, marked out the original meandering creek line and was planted as continuous strip of rye grass by Bonnyrigg Skillshare. Considerable community uncertainty around safety and flooding was ameliorated through this creative engagement to understand the benefits of the natural processes of the creek.

The reinstatement of a natural creek system through the removal of a concrete storm water channel has vastly improved the waterway’s ecological value and amenity for the local community while still providing flood protection.

Quick facts

Project type
Green Infrastructure – Ecological restoration and open space corridor
Project scale
Design team
Project Coordinator Landscape Architect – Schaffer Barnsley Landscape Architects
Stormwater Management – Bewsher Consulting & Department of Land and Water Conservation
Ecological Consultant – AWT Consulting Engineers
Fluvial Geomorphologist – Dr Wayne Erskine
Habitat Ecologist – Dr Peter Brean
Artists – Turpin Crawford Studio
Year completed
Construction completed 2001.
Suburban – Clear Paddock Creek, Fairfield NSW
Site area
750 metres in length
Public, Local Government – Fairfield City Council
Design Awards
1999 AILA National Award for Outstanding Achievement in Landscape Architecture
1998 AILA National Award of Excellence for Planning
1998 AILA NSW Award for Planning