Sarah Clift

Sarah Clift

Sarah Clift, Australia

Sarah Holland Clift is the Coordinator of the Parramatta River Catchment Group, an alliance of 11 local Councils and 4 State Government agencies in Sydney, Australia, who are working together to make the Parramatta River swimmable again by 2025. Sarah has over 14 years’ professional experience working in natural resource management, coordinating a range of national, statewide and regional programs. Sarah has an Honours degree in Biological Sciences and Graduate Certificate in River Health Management. When not at work, you can often find Sarah swimming in a pool, river, lake or ocean somewhere.

Presentation Title: Making the Parramatta River swimmable again: From pipe dream to reality

The Parramatta River is the main tributary of Sydney Harbour and Australia’s most iconic river. It is central to Australia’s indigenous and colonial history and the development of modern Sydney.

In the early 1900s, the river was the focal point for many social and recreational activities. However, by the 1950s, lack of regulation and rapid industrial development caused substantial degradation of the water quality, resulting in the closure of 14 popular community swimming spots.

With improved regulation, technology and community awareness, it is now possible to restore the river and make it swimmable once again. However, modelling shows that rapid population growth and development could see this reversed if a proactive catchment-wide approach is not implemented.

The Parramatta River Catchment Group (PRCG) is an alliance of local and State government agencies and the community with the mission to make the Parramatta River swimmable again by 2025.

The PRCG have developed a Masterplan to map the pathways for how this mission will be achieved. Together, they have engineered a process focussed on tangible outcomes for local communities, including identifying iconic ecosystem goals, providing guidance for foreshore activation and designing locally-specific water interaction opportunities.

To develop the Masterplan, a collaborative, evidence-based process was adopted that involves multiple government agencies and local communities in planning, research, peer review and decision-making processes.

Progressive community engagement techniques were combined with rigorous scientific research to determine appropriate management actions and metrics. In addition, progress on developing the plan has been reported publicly on a regular basis, with extensive media uptake and online following.

We will present the collaborative process undertaken to develop this Masterplan, highlight key management interventions identified and, through this, demonstrate how the next 8 years of unprecedented regional growth presents a major opportunity for restoration of this once neglected, urban waterway.