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Extraordinary Council Meeting

24 May 2016


Item No:         Item 4

Subject:         Review of Waterplay Facility at Steel Park 

File Ref:         16/4718/57042.16        

Prepared By: William Blunt - Executive Manager Major Projects, Marrickville 

Authorised By: Vanessa Chan – Interim General Manager




This report provides a review of the Waterplay Facility following the successful completion of its 6th season of operation.







1.       the report be received and noted;

2.       Council resolves to undertake the works including the small expansion as discussed in the report; and

3.       Council resolves to include an allocation of $300k in the 2016/2017 capital budget for the proposed works.






In 2004, Council commissioned Prior Cheney and H M Leisure to conduct a review of its aquatic facilities.  The consultants considered the need for a third pool within the LGA including the needs of the residents in the southern part of the LGA.


The report included:


Aquatic report extract


At its December 2006 meeting, Council resolved to seek the community's views on two site options for a Waterplay Park – in front of the Debbie and Abbey Borgia Recreation Centre or at the southern end of Steel Park adjacent to the Cooks River.  A program of public exhibition and community consultation for the proposal was held between Wednesday 7 March 2007 and Wednesday 4 April 2007.

DAB forecourt jets


DAB forecourt splashpad

Views of possible Waterplay facility in front of the DAB Centre


The feedback from this consultation was reported back to the Major Projects Steering Committee and Council.  At its meeting of 15 May 2007, Council resolved to seek quotes from consultants to prepare preliminary Waterplay designs for the two Steel Park site options.

In June 2007, Council endorsed the engagement of consultants to prepare preliminary concept designs.

At Council’s meeting of 5 November 2007 Council resolved to approve Steel Park on the Cooks River foreshore as the preferred site option.  Council appointed a consortium of consultants led by the firm KIAH Infranet for the design, approvals and documentation. 

At its meeting of 17 June 2008 Council resolved to endorse further investigation of a revised scope for the project involving a broader integration with Council’s planned Steel Park upgrade.  Council also allocated additional funding of $500,000.

Waterplay amended holistic masterplan Nov 08

Holistic design incorporating the Waterplay, relocated cycle way, salt marsh and stormwater devices along with extensive plantings.

Further technical and design investigations were carried out on a holistic design, followed by a community consultation and further reporting to the Major Projects Steering Committee and Council, and the subsequent lodgment of a development application.


Waterplay sketch and images



Final adopted concept for the Waterplay including;  The Source, Water Rills and The Estuary.

Work commenced in April 2010 for completion within 5 months.  Excessive wet weather which created quagmire conditions resulted in the works being completed in late October 2010.

The facility was opened on 7 November 2010 when the new facility was described as follows:

The new facility will provide an interesting series of waterplay features for children. These include a ‘source’ feature representing the water flowing from the mountains, a ‘rills’ section representing water flowing in a river across plains, and an ‘estuary’ that includes a collection of jets and sprays.

Each of the features can be operated separately.

The Waterplay Park also has a new adjacent playground that can be accessed via the new pedestrian and cycle pathway.

Funding was received from the Australian Government’s Bike Path Project, the Roads and Traffic Authority, the Water for the Future initiative under the National Water Security Plan for Cities and Towns though the Sydney Metropolitan Catchment Management Authority and Marrickville Council.


The Waterplay facility has proved exceptionally popular with continuing positive feedback from the community.




An allocation of $300k will be incorporated in the 2016/2017 capital budget for the planning, design and construction of the proposed expansion of the Waterplay Facility funded by developer contributions.




A review of the Waterplay Facility was conducted by the Executive Manager Major Projects.  The following matters are discussed.


Recent Community Survey

Council conducted a survey of users of the facility on 13 and 21 January 2016 to seek feedback and identify any issues that would be of assistance in guiding the continued operation of the Facility.

A report of the survey is included as ATTACHMENT 1.

Participants in the survey were asked to prioritise potential future works by Council.

The graph below identifies the priorities as follows:







Regarding these priorities, the following comments are provided:


·    Provision for more picnic facilities is incorporated in the Cooks River Parklands Plan of Management and associated Master Plan for Steel Park.  The Master Plan also includes for the upgrade of the existing barbeque facilities.


·    It is possible to provide a small extension to the Waterplay to provide a separate fenced area (pool type fencing) for small children incorporating soft fall pavement (same as at Fanny Durack Aquatic Centre), more seating and an additional shade structure.  This extension would be created by re-directing the small water flow at the top of The Estuary towards the oval over the new soft fall material.  By re-directing an existing feature, there would be no requirement to enlarge the water pumping and treatment equipment or tank.  The potential extension is shown as “A” on the drawing included as ATTACHMENT 2.



Area for possible extension of Waterplay facility.



In addition to the priorities, further issues were raised.  Those relating to the Waterplay are discussed below;


·    Upgrade toilets:  At the time the Waterplay was being planned, it was believed the use would be limited and it was therefore determined to only use the facilities that existed at the time (2009/2010).  The existing facilities were upgraded.  Given the popularity of the facility, provision of further amenities could be considered if and when the existing building is refurbished.  The Cooks River Plan Parkland Plan of Management and associated Master Plan for Steel Park provides for an upgrade of the existing amenities building although that is a lower priority to other parks toilet upgrades.


·    Car Parking:  There is no standard for the number of parking spaces to be provided for a waterplay facility.  The number of spaces provided was based on an analysis by a traffic expert based on best estimates of the number of likely users of the facility and consideration of available space within the site area.  It is not physically possible to expand the number of spaces.  A related issue of long term parking was raised.  It appears the car park is being used by backpackers.  This has been referred to compliance staff to investigate.


·    Slippery materials:  Materials were selected that had an appropriate slip resistance:  cobbles, exfoliated stone, broom finished concrete.


Operational Issues


A review of the facility identified the following issues which are shown on the drawing included as ATTACHMENT 2.


·    Fencing to car park “B”: The lack of fencing between the northern car park and the waterplay was raised by a number of users as an area of concern.  Addition of a fence would improve the level of separation between children in the waterplay and vehicles entering and leaving the car park.  It would also prevent ongoing trampling of vegetation in the adjacent landscaped area.


·    Ponding on Pavement “C”:  It is recommended that a small area of concrete pavement be removed and replaced with better falls (slope) to prevent the ponding of water at the entrance doorway to the amenities.




Areas of ponding to be rectified



·    Ponding of water “D”:  It is recommended that an additional absorption pit be constructed in the low area between the waterplay and the picnic area.  During rain and heavy use of the Waterplay, water runs to the low point and ponds before soaking into the ground.  The addition of a further gravel filled soakage pit will assist to keep this area dryer.  Due to the high ground water table and the very low level in the area, complete elimination of ponding in heavy rain will not be possible.


·    Muddy conditions “E”:  It is recommended that the paving slab at the base of The Source be extended towards the flying fox and picnic area to eliminate the muddy area by providing an extended interface between the pavements and the grass.


Additional issues:


·    Flooding:  There have been at least two floods which have covered the Waterplay and surrounding area.  Given the nature of the facility (being water based), there was no damage.  Extensive cleaning was required to restart the facility.  There was no reported damage to the filtration and control systems however, it should be noted that a flood at a higher level, will likely result in damage to the equipment.  At such a level, it is also likely that plant and equipment serving the whole of the amenities building would also be damaged.


Illawarra at Wharf Rd10

2012 flood event – view from Illawarra Road towards the amenities building and Waterplay facility.


Stormwater:  The project included the construction of swales to collect runoff from Illawarra Road and the car park.  The swale system has worked well although ongoing maintenance is required to ensure drains leading from the Illawarra kerb and the swales are cleaned of debris.



Stormwater swale leading from the carpark to the river.


Salt Marsh:  A key initiative of the project included the demolition of part of the river wall and the construction of a salt marsh.  The salt marsh has been successful established with small fish observed in the marsh area at higher tides.



View of salt marsh adjacent to partially removed river wall.


Vegetation:  Both via the construction contractor and with the assistance of the community, the area adjacent to the river, swales and salt marsh was revegetated.  The vegetation has become well established and is currently maintained by a specialist contractor engaged via the Biodiversity team.



Well established vegetation between the river and cycleway.


Water Quality:  At the time the Waterplay was designed (2009/2010), such facilities which were rare and were not captured by any specific regulations.  The system was however designed and constructed to meet the requirements as if it was a public swimming pool.  The water filtration and dosing system is essentially the same as that installed at Annette Kellerman and Fanny Durack aquatic centres, although on a much smaller scale.  With similar facilities being provided to the community, the Department of Health has now advised that such facilities are defined as a “swimming pool” under the Public Health Act and must comply with the requirements for public swimming pools. 

The original design included water filtration and dosing equipment based on a bromine tablet system.  This was found to be too slow to respond to the changing conditions found in the facility; water volume, sunlight, shallow water over pavements and ingress of vegetation.  The equipment was replaced by a liquid chlorine injection system controlled by a sophisticated electronic water chemistry testing and control unit (same as installed at Annette Kellerman and Fanny Durack Aquatic Centres).

This replacement system has worked well and when maintained and calibrated (as at the Aquatic Centres), appropriate water quality standards have been maintained.

Over the last six seasons, there have been two outbreaks of Cryptosporidiosis in the local area.  On both occasions, the Department of Health determined that the Waterplay facility was not the source of the outbreak.  On both occasions, the Department has provided advice re the management of appropriate water quality standards for the facility.

Given the nature of the facility, it is essential that ongoing management of the equipment is conducted at an appropriate level with regular inspections and maintenance from the suppliers of the equipment.  Appropriate allowances are including in each year’s maintenance budget for the facility.

An inspection by a specialist consultant will be undertaken prior to the next season to ensure the system is operating correctly and is meeting the water quality requirements.

It would be appropriate to make provision for the replacement of the water filtration and dosing equipment following the 10th season in 2019/2020. 


In addition and to ensure appropriate water quality, parents need to supervise young children and when necessary, children need to wear appropriate swimming nappies.  Signage explaining the requirement is installed at the facility.




A survey of users was conducted on two days during January 2016.  The results of the survey are included as ATTACHMENT 1.




The Waterplay facility has proven to be extremely popular and well patronized with ongoing favorable feedback from users.

To ensure the success of the facility, it will be necessary to ensure the successful maintenance of the facility continues and that appropriate budget allocations are incorporated in future budgets.

A potential to expand the Waterplay facility has been identified.





Results of Survey


Diagram of Proposed Extension and Other Miscellaneous Works