Sydney Harbour Estuary Processes Study

The Sydney Harbour Estuary Processes Study consists of the main report and the following appendices:


The Sydney Harbour Estuary Processes Study report contributes to Stage 2 of the coastal management program (Detailed Studies of Vulnerabilities and Opportunities) to fill gaps in current knowledge about the coastal management issues affecting Sydney Harbour.


Information provided by these studies is to support decision-making and assist communities to understand these coastal management issues. This will enable actions to be developed to address those issues including current and future risks, as well as to promote public access, use and enjoyment of the Harbour and support the continued prosperity of the NSW economy.

The improved knowledge generated by these studies will help support the identification, evaluation and selection of appropriate management actions required to address management issues in an integrated and strategic manner during Stage 3. This includes actions to support ecologically sustainable development, manage and reduce risks from coastal hazards, promote public access, improve community awareness and understanding, and support the well-being of the local community and coastal ecosystems.


These studies will build on the history of Sydney Harbour including biophysical, demographic, infrastructure and economic changes, and how community aspirations have changed over time. It includes an assessment of threats and opportunities that concentrates primarily on threats to environmental assets and represents a preliminary analysis of the sorts of considerations that may need to be taken into account when considering future management initiatives for Australia’s most iconic waterway.

Very high threats to environmental values were considered likely to result from the full range of climate change stressors, from habitat damage caused by anchoring and mooring, from increased inputs of nutrients and sediments from the surrounding and largely urbanised subcatchments, from toxic pollutants (including legacy pollutants in sediments) and from some aspects of fishing (notably illegal fishing and the discarding of unwanted catch). Many of these activities are likely to also impinge on social and economic values, because Sydneysiders consider the ecological health and aesthetic nature of the Harbour as fundamental to the appreciation and enjoyment of the Harbour and its surrounding foreshore, by residents and visitors alike.

Opportunities to address these very high threats, and many of the lesser threats also identified, will require a carefully considered and coordinated response from all those responsible for managing various aspects of the Harbour and its surrounding catchment. Some of those opportunities have been scoped out in this report, but they are intended to be indicative rather than exhaustive. They are provided to inform Stage 3 of the Sydney Harbour Coastal Management Program.

The Sydney Harbour Estuary Processes Study appendices can be downloaded free of charge or emailed, on request: