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Why the inaccessible Wharf Street retention basin proved the perfect site for development


Like hundreds of other drainage assets in the Greater Perth area, the Wharf Street stormwater basin in the City of Canning sat behind high-security fencing for decades.

But plans to remove those barriers and provide the public with a new open space led to the creation of the Wharf Street Basin Next Generation Community Park (WSB) – the winner of the IPWEA Best Public Works Project $2m-$5m Award.

Where once this was an inaccessible retention basin, it is now a multipurpose smart park, a living, urban wetland and a connecting link between two areas of the city. It also still serves its function as an overflow basin, with the capacity to hold up to 18,000m3 of stormwater to protect surrounding areas from flooding.

An innovative project, which also utilises smart technology to capture stormwater data, the park provides “significant amenity to the proposed high‐density development surrounding the site”.

It also serves as a successful example of what can be achieved with other drainage sites – currently fenced off from the public – around the state.

Navigating the planning stages

The origins of the project fall within the 10-year, $76 million urban regeneration program currently taking place in the fast growing City of Canning.

With the Canning City Centre (CCC) identified as a Strategic Metropolitan Centre with the capacity to accommodate 10,000 new homes in the next two decades, public open space within the local government domain is at a premium.

The development of the WSB – located on the edge of the CCC – therefore answered two main questions: how to create public open space within this expanding urban setting and how to open up drainage infrastructure for community use.

From the outset the WSB project was a collaboration between, among others: the City of Canning; the Federal Government’s Smart Cities program; the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation; Curtin University’s School of Design and the Built Environment; and the Water Corporation, which owns the site. Josh Byrne & Associates (JBA) and Environmental Industries were engaged as design and construction contractors.

There was also extensive engagement with community and Traditional Owners prior to finalising plans.

The outcomes

The transformation of the stormwater basin into a public space has included the construction of a walkway across the water area, the planting of waterwise native plants, the installation of a 40m mural and the development of a small nature playground.

Importantly, it has combined these attributes with a raft of smart technology to meet sustainability and research objectives.

These include solar panelling to power lighting and water pumping; smart irrigation to reduce water usage; water cycling designed to filter out nutrients; sensor technology to measure water quality and water usage throughout the park; and the development of an open data portal to provide key analytics for schools, researchers and government bodies on everything from weather to water usage.

Now fully functioning, WSB has met each of its objectives, proving a popular site for the public while providing ongoing data for future research.

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