Phillip Birtles

Phillip Birtles

Phillip is a waterway professional in Sydney, Australia. He is passionate about connecting urban communities with their waterways. He currently works for the regional water utility, Sydney Water.

Delivering Liveable, Productive and Sustainable Cities Through Effective Urban Waterways Governance

Sydney’s urban waterways do not have a coordinated and aligned management framework across the multiple arms of government and responsibility for their health is unclear. This fractured governance has stifled opportunities for waterway restoration and the associated benefits to local communities.

In March 2018, the NSW Government released their Greater Sydney Region Plan. This plan details a metropolis of three cities that are liveable, productive and sustainable. Key to this outcome are waterway health objectives that are unlikely to be delivered via a business as usual approach. A new catchment focused governance and management approach is needed.

In this paper we describe an urban waterways governance framework (see Figure 1) that details the wide spectrum of governance intervention options available.

Figure 1: Urban Waterways Governance Framework

We argue that the preferred intervention for each urban waterway catchment should be selected according to a range of factors including; the effectiveness of the current governance, the size of the catchment, the catchment population and the magnitude of development in the catchment.

We demonstrate the effectiveness of this strategy via a case study applied to the Parramatta River Catchment where the regional water utility has adopted the Waterway Co-ordinator role. This role focuses on coordinating stakeholders to deliver the Parramatta River Catchment Group’s Masterplan and making the Parramatta River swimmable again by 2025. Sydney Water is also investigating intervention options for other catchments. We evaluate the process of stakeholder collaboration to create this governance transition and provide recommendations going forward.

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