Breaking Concrete on Moonee Ponds Creek!
January marked the beginning of major works at Oak Park/Strathmore, with the removal of the first panel of concrete as part of the ‘Reimagining Moonee Ponds Creek’ Project.
This exciting project is converting the current concrete channel into a naturalised creek that will transform the area and improve liveability, health, wellbeing and amenity of the creek and its surrounding environment for all to enjoy.
The project will re-establish creek habitats, improve water quality and restore in-stream biodiversity that was previously prevented due to the channel’s high-flow function. It will also convert a thoroughfare to an enticing, nature-filled destination.
The project links back to the 1980s when community advocacy and calls to remove the creek’s concrete first began.
Impetus to the project was given by the 2018 award-winning “Chain of Ponds” strategic plan which set out options for removing concrete and reinstating a more naturalised creek. The establishment of the Chain of Ponds Collaboration Group (councils, water authorities, community organisations) enabled the project to be planned, approved and funded.
“The project moved from a desire to reality with a $5m State Government grant and further contributions from Melbourne Water, Merri-bek Council, and Moonee Valley Council,” says Rachel Lopes, Lead for Chain of Ponds Collaboration. “And everyone was smiling the day the first piece of concrete came out!”
The project is one of five key projects of the Chain of Ponds Collaboration – pushing the global benchmark for waterway transformation through strategic partnering with local and state government, water authorities and research organisations, community groups and not-for-profit organisations.
Co-Design with the Community
Discussions with the community began in May 2021 via virtual workshops and an online Your Say page. The community was asked to define their vision for a reimagined creek and the results from these discussions were incorporated into three concept design options, all of which were costed and deemed feasible to deliver.
All three options retained the base of the concrete channel to reduce the volume and, therefore, cost of soil excavated (due to PFAS contamination), while removing the concrete wingwalls and replacing them with large basalt rock to mimic a natural waterway. Adding a series of weirs and rock riffles to increase water depth and hide the concrete base.
The three options were shared with the community in August 2021 through 7 virtual workshops (175 attendees) and the online YourSay page (which received 314 responses!) to identify a preferred option. Option C was chosen, and is the design being delivered.
Traditional Owner engagement
The project team partnered with Wurundjeri as the traditional owners to identify Wurundjeri aspirations that could be delivered as part of the project. These aspirations were identified through a number of site visits with Wurundjeri elders and officers, finishing with a workshop. The workshop’s purpose was to build on a previous cultural values survey undertaken for the Moonee Ponds Catchment in 2016 and to identify actions for the project team. Outcomes included:
- Reinstating the role of Moonee Ponds Creek within the wider landscape
- Restoring the creek corridor
- Using rocks within the reimagined waterway of similar geology to the wider landscape
- Involvement of the Wurundjeri Narap team in the revegetation design and plant list
- Development of signage and interpretation in partnership with Wurundjeri
- A Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) has also been prepared and submitted for approval for this project.
According to Venta Slizys, Coordinator City Design at Moonee Valley Council, the ‘Reimagining Moonee Ponds Creek’ project reminds everyone of the value of rivers and creeks and how important it is to have these natural spaces to connect with: “It’s been amazing to see this project unfold over time, with all the partners and the community working together to make it happen”.
The ‘Reimagining Moonee Ponds Creek’ project construction is expected to be completed January 2024 followed by 2 years of vegetation establishment.