Sydney Water

Johnstons Creek Naturalisation


Stormwater channel

Contract Type

Design and construction

Year of Completion




Johnstons Creek Transformation

Diona and Sydney Water transform an aged stormwater channel at Johnstons Creek into a vibrant, natural urban oasis, blending heritage with sustainability.

Project Overview

Sydney Water has revitalised Johnstons Creek, transforming the lower reach into a vibrant, natural habitat. This innovative project involved stabilising the creek with natural sandstone, enriching the area with native plantings, creating intertidal rock pools, and establishing endangered saltmarsh benches. This initiative has not only enhanced the creek’s liveability but also its ecological and social value.

Project Need

Constructed in 1898, Johnstons Creek is one of Sydney’s earliest purpose-built stormwater drains, running through the City of Sydney LGA, near the Inner West Council and City West Link. A condition assessment revealed deteriorating banks, necessitating renewal. Opting against conventional concrete relining, Sydney Water embarked on a naturalisation project to rejuvenate 610 metres of the creek using native flora and sandstone blocks, aiming to restore its natural ecosystem and improve community recreational spaces.

Project Solution

Diona undertook the design and construction of the Johnstons Creek naturalisation, removing 5,800 tonnes of concrete to make way for sandstone blocks, native plantings, and endangered saltmarsh. The project broadened the creek, adding saltmarsh benches and intertidal rock pools, while enhancing community access with new paths, lookout areas, and a boardwalk. Safety improvements and habitat creation for marine life were achieved through bank reshaping and installing a sandstone invert in the creek bed.

Value Add | Benefit
Environmental Revitalisation

By replacing concrete with natural elements, the project has significantly improved the creek’s ecological health, supporting a diverse range of species.

Community Engagement and Recreation

The addition of pathways, lookouts, and a boardwalk encourages community interaction with the naturalised creek, fostering a deeper connection with the local environment.

Safety and Accessibility Improvements

Reshaping the banks and enhancing access points have made the creek safer and more accessible for the public.

Heritage and Asset Enhancement

This project serves as a model of asset management excellence, significantly extending the asset’s life while boosting the area’s liveability through ecological and social upgrades.

Key Aspects
  • Removing the concrete lined base and banks and recycling 5,800 tonnes of concrete.
  • Replacing concrete banks with large sandstone blocks, stabilised rock banks and native planting.
  • Planting 2,730m3 of endangered saltmarsh.
  • Widening the channel in parts, including constructing saltmarsh benches and ecological intertidal rock pools.
  • Building new paths, lookout areas and a boardwalk for the community to enjoy the naturalised waterway environs, along with inspirational interpretive signs and seating.
  • Minor reshaping of the banks to reduce bank slope and increase safety.
  • Creation of a unique in-stream sandstone invert in the channel base to provide in-stream aquatic habitat for diverse native marine species.
ESG Alignment

Enhances water quality and ecological health through the introduction of native plants and sandstone blocks, fostering biodiversity and ecosystem restoration. Demonstrates commitment to clean and sustainable water resources.

Transforms the urban environment into a green, vibrant community space, providing recreational opportunities and enhancing area inclusiveness, safety, and resilience. Emphasises community engagement and creation of public amenities, fostering a deeper connection between the community and its natural surroundings.

The naturalisation project contributes to the improvement of water quality in the creek. By transforming a previously engineered waterway into a more natural state, the project enhances the ecological health of the water body, which is essential for maintaining clean and sustainable water resources.

The project improves the liveability of the area surrounding Johnstons Creek by creating a more aesthetically pleasing and natural environment. This contributes to making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable, as the project transforms an urban space into a green, vibrant area that benefits the local community.

The naturalisation of Johnstons Creek supports local biodiversity by creating a habitat conducive to various forms of terrestrial and aquatic life. Restoring the creek to a more natural state helps in preserving ecosystems and fostering biodiversity, which is a key aspect of life on land.

The collaboration between Diona and Sydney Water in undertaking this project exemplifies how partnerships between different organisations can effectively work towards achieving sustainable development goals.

Industry Awards

Winner in the category of ‘Excellence in Asset Management’ underscoring our commitment to sustainable infrastructure and environmental stewardship.

The award recognised the integration of multiple specialities working together including stakeholder and community engagement, civil and hydraulic engineering, ecological design and landscape architecture to deliver a community based asset.

Sydney Water Project Manager, Jordan Mulhearn praised Diona’s efforts, stating “a big thanks to our delivery contractor Diona who worked on ground for almost two years and did a fantastic job delivering a difficult project in challenging circumstances. We clocked over 100,000 work hours on site and had over 130 workers over the life of the project.”

Winner Place-based Collaboration Award. The Place-based collaboration award recognises exceptional collaborative approaches to planning and place making.

“The panel applauds Sydney Water’s focus on ‘place’ and its engagement with the local community and councils. Using targeted, tailored and multi-platform engagement methods, the project responded to the needs of the local community by incorporating their feedback into the planning, design and construction of the project. The naturalisation project is sensitively done and provides excellent environmental and social outcomes.”

Winner: Excellence in Asset Management Award

“The Johnstons Creek project has set a new benchmark for stormwater channel naturalisation projects. The works have significantly improved the ecological and social value of the channel which has been transformed into a vibrant waterway that has been very well received by the local community. The award is great recognition for the hard work by many people in the project team including our key partners Thompson Berrill Landscape Design, Jacobs, City of Sydney and Diona,” said Jordan Mulhearn, Project Manager for Sydney Water.

Community and Client Feedback