Tag Archives: Cooks River

Clean Up Australia Day – time to life our game

Founded in 1989 by Ian Kiernan, Clean Up Australia Day has become an important date in many of our calendars. The idea behind the day is simple. It is about getting together with your family and friends to help collect litter from local parks, beaches, streets, creeks and rivers. In twenty-nine years, thousands of tonnes of litter have been collected and over thirty million volunteer hours have gone into making Australia beautiful.

Yesterday, my friends and I rolled up our sleeves to help clean up parts of the Cooks River. Starting from Steel Park in Marrickville, we worked our way east along the banks towards Princess Highway (and back). This is a park where all of us enjoy running, biking, walking and picnicking and so we had a sense of responsibility and ownership for making this space safe and healthy.

Armed with gloves and Clean Up Australia Day bags we spent over four hours collecting cigarette butts, plastic bottles, cans, paper, plastic straws, coffee cups and lids and balloons. We even managed to fish out larger items from the river foreshore and mangroves such as share bikes, car tyres, computer cases and shopping trolleys.

Clean Up Australia Day. Image credit: Hasmukh Chand (2018)
A pile of all the rubbish we collected during our Clean Up Australia Day walk. Image credit: Hasmukh Chand (2018)

Even though it was smelly, dirty and tough work, the smiles on my friends’ faces said it all. It was a lot of fun and we all felt like we had accomplished something great.

The sad part is though that if we were to go back to Steel Park next week and walk our cleaning route, no doubt it will once again be littered and the share bikes and shopping trolleys will be back in the water. It never stops to amaze me just how careless people are about a shared space and how they are happy to turn a blind eye to the harm litter causes to the environment and wildlife.

And I fear that China’s ban on accepting recycled waste from countries such as Australia will only make the situation worse. At least in the short-term until local councils and the State/Territory governments get some concrete policies in place. Like the newly introduced ‘cash for cans’ program in NSW. In fact, I think that plastic cans and bottles were uncommon on our cleaning route compared to previous years. All the more reason for us to lift our game when it comes to reducing waste. Just like Clean Up Australia Day, every little bit will count.

Some ways I think we can minimise our litter include simple things such as:

  • Take a reusable bag when you go shopping
  • Refuse plastic straws with your drinks
  • Use a keep cup for your take away coffee
  • Put the litter in the actual (and correct) bin
  • Treat everyday as Clean Up Australia Day
  • Buy things that have been upcycled from old items
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Cooks River hides a little secret

Cooks River is considered to be one of the most polluted urban river systems in NSW. Leaf litter, drink cans, plastics bags, oil runoff are common sights for the locals. When it rains, the situation gets worse as the rubbish snags on the low hanging branches of the casuarina trees and the roots of the mangroves that grow along the banks. The visual pollution and the associated smell can make walking and running along Cooks River an unpleasant experience.

However, despite the pollution, Cooks River hides a little secret. One even some of the locals are not aware of.

To find it, you need to start at Canterbury train station. From there, make your way south across the bridge until you reach the first set of traffic lights. From there, you need to cross to St Mary McKillop Reserve. Then make your way past the tall trees and very slowly, past the gang of noisy sulfur-crested cockatoos. Past the sails of the children’s playground, the rocking horse and the jungle-gym.

You are almost there. Just a little further.

At the end of the little path, past the tall trees lies the secret. A little green oasis known as Cup and Saucer Creek. It was developed as part of Sydney Water’s ‘bank-naturalisation’ project. Bank-naturalisation aims to replace concrete channels, pavements, storm-water drains and lawns with native trees and plants. The construction of Cup and Saucer Creek began in 2010 and took about three months to complete. Twelve months after the project began, it was handed over to Canterbury Council.

Over the past few years, the 27,000 native plants and 40 species of plants introduced around Cup and Saucer Creek have created a vibrant habitat. It is now home to a number of native birds, amphibians, reptiles, fish and insects. In 2014, the Council and the volunteers (Marrickville Mudcrabs) who look after the area installed a native beehive to support the plants in the area. From the Creek, sandstones, rocks and native plants have been used to continue the naturalisation process and link the wetland to Cooks River.

Sights around Cup and Saucer Creek. The stumps make ideal spots for the birds. Sadly, rubbish gets in the wetland from time to time. Image credit, Madeline Rhodes.

The oasis comes complete with its own educational space and interpretive signs about indigenous history. These solidifies the Creek as an important, local greenspace. Adjacent to Cup and Saucer Creek are sandstone seats, ideal for those who want to sit and enjoy a snack as they journey along the banks of Cooks River.

Looking at Cooks River from Cup and Saucer Creek. The new bank naturalisation project has connected the Creek to the River. The sandstones add a great touch and add to the stability of the banks. Image credit, Madeline Rhodes

But Cup and Saucer Creek hides its very own little secrets. Not only does it provide a refuge for local wildlife, it performs another critical function. The Creek was specifically designed to reduce the amount of sediments and pollutants entering Cooks River. This is achieved through a clever way. The Creek is made up of four ponds of varying depths and sizes.

The first pond is the deepest as it receives the bulk of the incoming stormwater. The deep design helps slows the rate at which the stormwater enters the wetland. By slowing the stormwater, the sediments and pollutants begin to settle to the bottom of the pond. The aquatic plants and reeds, together with the algae and bacteria that grow in the ponds helps to break down the sediments and pollutants. By the time the water reaches the fourth pond, it is much cleaner.

One of the four ponds that make up the Creek. It helps slow down the stormwater that flows into it and the aquatic plants and reeds help filter the pollutants. Image credit, Madeline Rhodes.

From pond four, the water flows into Cooks River. The natural filtering and cleaning process is so effective, that Sydney Water estimates that 5 tonnes of sediment, 40kg of phosphorus and 130kg of nitrogen are diverted from Cooks River by Cup and Saucer Creek alone.

The Creek is a great example of the positive impacts that bank-naturalisation programs can have on local water catchments. A once grassy lawn that has been transformed into a thriving and vibrant ecosystem. More projects like Cup and Saucer Creek are needed along the banks of the Cooks River. Ultimately, they need to be connected to form a green corridor. One that not only cleans and filters the water but also provide a habitat for the local wildlife. Doing so will go a long way to help the Inner West Council achieve its goal of making parts of the Cooks River swimmable.

Until then, Cup and Saucer Creek will be one of Cooks River’s best kept secrets. One that many of the locals do not know about. And the ones that do, want to keep it a secret. At least a little longer.