Ahh, Sydney Harbour. Arguably one of our fair city’s most famous features, it’s a magnet for tourists from around the world and its catchments are the home of 3.07 million people (projected to grow to 4.35 million by 2041). But the question is – would you dare to swim in it? If you’re picturing that foreboding, cloudy, polluted depiction of the waters of Sydney Harbour that Dory and Marlin swim into on their perilous journey in Finding Nemo, your impression could be about to change.
Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore has announced a progressive plan to improve the water quality of Sydney’s harbours, and introduce some new infrastructure and snazzy new public pools once the waters have been made swimmable.
“Swimming in the harbour is no pipe dream. Cities around the world are turning to their natural harbour assets rather than building more infrastructure. Copenhagen spent 15 years transforming its harbour from a highly polluted waterway to a swimmer’s paradise where wildlife is thriving. Once a polluted industrial port, Copenhagen city now invites people to swim in its waterways and enjoy a clean and thriving aquatic environment,” said Moore in an address delivered to Sydney Water’s inaugural Innovation Festival.
Photograph: Supplied/Andrew Burges Architects for the City of Sydney
The council commissioned Andrew Burges Architects, the same team behind the major Aquatic Leisure Centre Parramatta, to look at options and possibilities for bringing to life a swimmable Harbour. Some of the ideas are more simple and require minimal intervention, such as at Beare Park where people could be swimming soon with the introduction of netting, platforms and swimming lanes. Whereas a speculative idea for the Glebe foreshore would include multiple swimming pools on a man-made island, connected to the foreshore by a footbridge.
But as highlighted by Moore herself, this vision relies on improving water quality: “Some parts of our harbour are highly polluted and cleaning up these waterways so they can be used for recreation and to improve biodiversity will require cooperation across all levels of government. The City will continue to play its part to make this happen through our stormwater management initiatives, and through our growing collaboration with Sydney Water.”
These plans will require “a whole of government approach”, and Moore highlighted that they are in response to the expected dramatic population growth expected in Sydney over the next 30 years, and oncoming hotter summers “with the climate expected to change to resemble that of Grafton.”
“Our city will be hotter, there will be more people, and there will be more competition for space for recreation. Turning the harbour into a safe place where people can swim, exercise or relax is the logical next step.”
While we wait for these plans to unfold, you can still make a splash in the best ocean pools in Sydney.