Concerns over Sydney Water wetlands plan for Kogarah Bay

Residents have raised concerns with Sydney Water's proposed $7.5 million stormwater project at Riverside Drive Reserve, Kogarah Bay.

The project replaces open grassland with wetlands, including a swale, retention pond, three-metre wide concrete pathway and plantings of native vegetation.

But residents of adjacent Parkside Drive are concerned about the size of the project and the fact that it takes up too much green space in the reserve.

They are particularly with the proposed three-metre wide pathway and said the final version of the project is very different from the original concept proposed in 2018.

Councillor Leesha Payor lodged a Notice of Motion at last week's council meeting asking the council to consider further modifications to the stormwater design, including replacing the open swale with an underground installation and altering the access to the reserve from Bruce and Renn Street.

Councillor Payor also called for the council to hold an urgent workshop to bring together consulting engineers, State Government agencies and the community for an acceptable solution.

A council report said that extensive community consultation had taken place, and Sydney Water has advised that it would not attend any council workshop as they have already awarded the contract. They are not prepared to look at any other options.

A Sydney Water spokesperson said the project includes the construction of two rain gardens and a wetland and will remove up to 18 tonnes of material from the waterway each year, including litter and other pollutants like silt and sediment that would otherwise end up in our waterways.

The wetland will be planted with native vegetation and will provide increased local fauna habitat, the spokesperson said.

Peter Hansen spoke on behalf of 12 residents whose homes back onto Parkside Drive Reserve said the residents aren't opposed to the wetlands.

"We think it is a good idea overall. However, this sort of development of this scale in that small land peninsula between homes needs to be looked at," he said.

"These features were not part of the original design and were not required to deliver the objectives of the project."

Mr Hansen said only three per cent of stormwater from the catchment area would enter the swale, meaning that it will remain mostly dry.

"The swale has no aesthetic or practical value and, in fact, detracts the natural beauty of the open parkland and will cut this part of the park in half," he said.

"The land has a natural slope into a hollow, so putting the swale underground looks achievable."

Brian Thompson, who has lived at Parkside Drive for 48 years, has concerns about the final design's safety aspects, particularly the three-metre wide concrete path that will be built alongside the swale, which will be a shared pathway for pedestrians cyclists and maintenance vehicles.

"The three-metre pathway will encourage excessive speed by cyclists and will become a de facto skateboard path," Mr Thompson said.

He called for the path to be reduced to the 1.5m width as in the original plan.

Councillor Payor said that Kogarah Bay Ward is now deficient in recreational space.

"Kogarah Bay residents accept this stormwater treatment project but want to preserve the small area of parkland as in the original concept drawings," she said.

Cr Kathryn Landsberry described the project as an over-engineered solution looking for a problem that doesn't exist.

"I don't see what has been proposed here is actually required," she said.

"This particular location was really lovely until it was fenced off. When I saw it, I was horrified that it was all fenced off and the entire location from behind Harold Fraser Oval to Renn and Bruce Street and to Parkside.

"Now, residents are stuck with a lack of access.

"We can't just sit on our hands and let this go ahead and potentially ruin a really valuable piece of open space."

A Sydney Water spokesperson said, "We have been engaging with the local community for three years on the project. We have kept our customers informed each step of the way and sought feedback on the design on numerous occasions, including community information sessions, online surveys, newsletters and notifications.

"The majority of customers we've engaged with support the project. Sydney Water has listened to community concerns and worked to find alternative solutions, including reducing the length of the swale to create more open space.

"We have conducted investigations into the option of putting the swale underground, which identified this option would not support the existing stormwater infrastructure.

"We have commissioned two independent investigations into the safety of the site, which found the design was a low risk to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. We will install clear signage, bollards and path markings to improve safety further.

"The shared path has been designed in accordance with the relevant standards and Ausroad Guidelines for the safe use of a shared pedestrian and cyclist path. This advises a minimum width between 2.5 to 3 metres. The shared path has always been a feature of the project design."

The council has deferred the matter for a month and will consider it again at its March meeting.

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