Tag Archives: Sydney

Tips on creating a habitat garden

These days it seems like everyone is into gardening. Being outdoors, getting your hands dirty and growing your own food is an easy way for us to reconnect with nature. The associated health and wellbeing benefits of gardening have also been widely recognised and promoted. This desire to live off the land is reflected in the popularity of programs such as Gardening Australia and the Gourmet Farmer as well as nature-care campaigns like National Tree Day and the Winter BeardsOn Challenge.

Many of us are now turning our front yards, backyards, verge spaces, community lots and even balconies into herbs, vegetables and fruit gardens. Growing our own produce helps us save money (particularly for those living in expensive Sydney) and reduce our environmental footprint. However, I think that it is a missed opportunity to have a garden that is exclusively used for the production of fruits and vegetables. I believe that with some simple tips such as those outlined below, you can transform your garden into a thriving habitat (depending on how much space is available). One that will boost the productivity of your garden, as well as provide a refuge for native wildlife.

Flowering native plants:

The simplest and most effective way to transform your garden into a lively habitat is by plantings. The best place to get information about ideal natives for your local area would be your council, local nurseries or landcare groups. When planting natives, it is important that they flower throughout the year and that the different plants grow to different heights. Species such as grevilleas, callistemon and leptospermum and native grasses are excellent choices. Plant them next to common garden herbs such as lavender, mint, basil, sage and rosemary. These herbs also flower throughout the year and are good at attracting bees to the garden.

Native garden next to driveway, Milton NSW. Image credit; Hasmukh Chand
Native garden next to driveway, Milton NSW. Image credit; Hasmukh Chand


Beehives have been a very popular addition to gardens, particularly in urban environments. They are small enough to be placed on rooftops, balconies and backyards. For serious hobbyists and gardeners, they can be a timely and often expensive pursuit. However, the honey that bees will produce can be a worthwhile reward. The pollination service that bees provide will increase the productivity of your vegetables and fruits. Because bees can forage large distances, having them in your garden will help other gardens in your area.

Many of us though may not be ready for such an investment or for fear of allergies and unaccepting neighbours. If you do decide that a beehive is something you want in your garden, then locate it in a sunny corner away from the public. It is also incredibly important to check with your local council to see if there are any regulatory requirements for having a beehive on your property and whether it needs to be registered with the State Government. If you cannot afford a beehive, simply drill some holes in your habitat logs which will be ideal for native Australian bees (many of which are solitary and stingless).

Habitat logs:

A thriving habitat garden attracts all sorts of beneficial insects, invertebrates and small mammals. By leaving a habitat log in a sunny corner, you will provide them with a place to sleep, hide, hunt and warm themselves in the sun. Depending on the amount of space available, you can leave logs all over your garden, including under shrubs and foliage. Habitat logs are incredibly important in Australia as many native bee species live in burrows in logs, tree stumps and bark. If there is no room for a habitat log, then mulch can be a great alternative as it will provide a place for bugs, insects and slugs. By adding mulch, you will also help suppress weeds and retain moisture in your garden.

Log in the garden. Holes and rotting bark provide ideal spaces for small insects. Image credit; Hasmukh Chand
Log in the garden. Holes and rotting bark provide ideal spaces for small insects. Image credit; Hasmukh Chand

Habitat rocks:

Habitat rocks perform a similar role to habitat logs. Leave a few rocks around in your garden to get maximum benefits. Larger rocks in sunny areas will provide the ideal spot for any lizards or other reptiles in your garden to warm themselves in the sun.

Watering holes:

Insects, invertebrates, birds and mammals in your garden will need somewhere to drink water. You can use any small, shallow container such as an old plate which is capable of holding water. A partially submerged flat rock or some floating wine corks can also be added to provide somewhere for the insects to land. It is important to keep an eye on the insect watering hole to prevent mosquitoes from using it to lay eggs and for keeping the water filled.

Nest boxes:

Nest boxes are a great way to provide refuge to some of the larger birds and mammals that might be found in your local area. Often, multiple animals might use the same nest box throughout the year. For nest boxes to be effective, they need to be located high up in the tree canopy. As such, it is often best to approach your local council or professionals in your area to have your nest box installed. Nest boxes can either be purchased and there are multiple designs that are suitable for certain birds and mammals. Alternatively, you can build your own nest box by finding tips and instructions online.

Native garden at a private property in Milton NSW. Image credit; Hasmukh Chand
Native garden at a private property in Milton NSW. Image credit; Hasmukh Chand

North Head Sanctuary

Visitors and locals flock to Manly for the sun and surf. Manly and Shelly beach aside, Manly hides a beautiful secret, particularly, for those looking to immerse themselves in native bushland without having to travel far from Sydney. This secret is North Head Sanctuary, where some of the last remnant native flora and fauna can be found in NSW. North Head Sanctuary is also an important site for indigenous culture and tradition, containing indigenous rock art, engravings and burial middens. The location also served as a quarantine station for early European colonisers arriving by ship. From the 1930s till the mid 1940s, North Head was a military site where large artillery guns were stationed to protect the harbour city from the Japanese.

Below, is a photo essay I put together with the pictures I took while wandering around North Head Sanctuary today (17.1.16). I strongly encourage both visitors and locals to hike to North Head and immerse themselves in a location rich in both biodiversity and indigenous and European history and culture.

The Barracks Precinct and Parade grounds showcasing the military history of North Head Sanctuary. There is a visitors centre here and an educational space where you can learn about some of the common native flora and fauna that can be found in the area. Image credit: Hasmukh Chand
Some of the lookouts offer impressive views of Sydney and surrounding lower North Shore suburbs. Image credit: Hasmukh Chand
Another impressive view of Sydney, this time taken from the entrance to the Third Quarantine Cemetery. The cemetery is where people who died from infectious diseases were buried between 1881 and 1925. Image credit: Hasmukh Chand
This is what awaits those who ascend North Head and reach Fairfax Lookout. From here, you can see the Eastern suburbs, Sydney CBD, Taronga Zoo and some of the lower North Shore suburbs. The water, sky and the headlands are a priceless frame for the Harbour City. Image credit: Hasmukh Chand
On the eastern side of Fairfax Lookout, you will find patches of shrub and trees that have been damaged by fire. Not sure if this was the result of an accident or ecological burn. Regardless, this section will recover. Image credit: Hasmukh Chand
Hanging swamp is absolutely teeming with life. As you stand here, all you hear are birds singing, dragonflies buzzing around and the wind rustling through the trees. Image credit: Hasmukh Chand
Located to the east of the Gun Emplacement 2, Hanging Swamp is an interest feature. The area has a pool of water which allows for native vegetation to thrive. A number of insects such as dragonflies and spiders can be found here. The metal platforms ensure that you will keep your feet dry. Image credit: Hasmukh Chand

Hope for Planet – event

Image sourced from the Opera House event pageI

I just got my tickets for a pretty exciting event at the Opera House in Sydney. The event is called “For Thought: Hope for the Planet” with prominent environmental thinkers and leaders; David Suzuki, Tim Flannery and Naomi Oreskes discussing how we can survive on the planet given the rising challenges of climate change, population growth and environmental degradation.

If you are as keen for the event as I am, you can purchase your tickets here.

Barangaroo – Sydney’s new green-space

Hasmukh Chand

For the first time in a hundred years, public access has been granted to the former shipping container site in the form of a new, six hectare green-space called ‘Barangaroo’. Framed by the iconic Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge and views of Balls Head, Goat Island and Ballast Point, Barangaroo will no doubt become a popular destination for both tourists and Sydneysiders alike. Stunning views aside, the attention to detail that went into the design and the delivery of the reserve is equally impressive and in my view, sets an international benchmark in urban renewal.

How was the ‘naturalistic’ look achieved?  The reserve was designed in such a way that it allows us a glimpse into what the harbour looked like prior to European settlement. This journey back into time is achieved through the use of 75,000 native plants, sourced from 80 different species found within Sydney harbour and Hawkesbury river. Natives such as  Eucalyptus saligna, Eucalyptus haemastoma and Glochidian ferdinandii are common features in the reserve. Further, Barangaroo’s foreshore and the contours are lined with close to 10,000 pieces of Hawkesbury sandstone, which were sourced from the site itself. Even the shape of the foreshore follows the original harbour shoreline as it was in 1836.

In an era where urban space is highly sought after by developers for commercial and residential projects, Sydney’s Barangaroo reserve sets the bar high for a different type of urban renewal; a multi-use, public green-space. Barangaroo has the potential to rapidly become one of the most popular destinations for both locals and tourists. After just one visit, it has already become one of my favourite location within Sydney CBD. Words and pictures do not do justice to Barangaroo which is why I highly recommend that people take time out to visit the reserve.

On a side note; there is free wifi in the park.

Barangaroo foreshore lined with sandstone and follows the original harbour shoreline from 1836. Image credit: Hasmukh Chand
The views from Barangaroo are amazing. The harbour bridge is visible from the entrance to the reserve via Walsh Bay. Image credit: Hasmukh Chand
Sandstone and native trees which have been sourced locally for the reserve. Image credit: Hasmukh Chand
Flight of steps going up to star gazers lawn which offers panoramic views of the harbour and surrounding islands. Steps also good for cardio training. Image credit: Hasmukh Chand

Barangaroo was designed by: Johnson Pilton Walker in association with Peter Walker and Partners Landscape Architecture.

A gracious thank you to the former Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating for his determination and passion for making a reality.

Central Park – The best building in Sydney?

Sydney’s architecture is well known around the world. The silhouette of the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and Centre Point Tower are easily recognised and they have graced countless postcards, been the subject of tourist itineraries and inspired designs all around the world. The newest edition to the Sydney skyline, however, has a range of characteristics that might just make it the best building in Sydney.

Located in Chippendale, Sydney’s One Central Park (Feature image above) building was a $2 billion urban renewal project that sought to revitalise an old derelict, brewery site. The project, designed by architect Jean Nouvel and developed by Frasers Property Australia, pushed the boundaries of civil and environmental engineering and has won a number of national and international awards along the way. Last year for example, One Central Park was awarded the ‘best tallest building in the world‘ by the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.

The project’s focus on sustainability is perhaps One Central Park’s most outstanding feature. Indeed, this was recognised in 2014, when One Central Park was given the ‘best sustainable development of the year award‘ by Leading European Architects Forum. So what makes Central Park one of the most sustainable buildings in the world? Firstly, the high-density building has 2100 apartments and nearly 900 student accommodations, plus a number of shops and businesses which reduces the need for urban sprawl. The site’s close proximity to Central train station and the Central Business District encourages the use of public transport.

Secondly, during construction, over 90% of the demolished materials were recycled on site. There was some controversy during the development phase in 2011 when Greenpeace found that the project was using rainforest timber sourced from Malaysia. With Greenpeace activists suspended from cranes attracting media attention, Frasers Property Australia immediately responded to the protests, initiated a strict audit of all timber and promptly switched to using Forest Stewardship Council certified timber.

One Central Park has its own tri-generation energy system (Figure 1). The natural gas that is used has a lower carbon footprint and is twice as efficient compared to conventional energy systems. With just the one system, the precinct will be able to produce heating, cooling and electricity (hence the ‘tri’). According to One Central Park’s website, over its 25 year lifespan, the tri-generation system will prevent nearly 200,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. The precinct has its own water recycling plant which utilises Membrane Bioreactors (Figure 2) to filter and recirculate water to the residential and business operations. A ‘membrane bioreactor’ works in two general stages; the first uses fine membranes to filter the waste water and the second uses a biological agent to further filter and clean the water before it is recycled.

The exterior of the building is dominated by two outstanding features which promote the overall sustainability and architecturally groundbreaking design. The first is the cantilevered, heliostat, which is a series of mirrors that reflect sunlight into the public spaces between the buildings below as well as provide natural heating.

The second outstanding feature of One Central Park is the vertical garden, which is stunning to behold on a nice, sunny day. Aside from aesthetics, the vertical garden which has over 30,000 native and exotic plants also acts as insulation, creates a micro-ecosystem which is good for attracting pollinators, creates shading and reduces the run-off of rainwater. For those living and working in One Central Park, the vertical garden appears to be a great catalyst to reconnect with nature.

Personally, One Central Park’s vertical garden is my favourite feature. Despite the use of exotic plants, the vertical garden is a stark and beautiful reminder of how nature and a functioning ecosystem can be re-introduced into an urban environment, through the use of roof-top, balcony and hanging gardens. Overall though, the groundbreaking features in terms of sustainability and architectural design might make One Central Park the best building in Sydney.

Figure 1: Tri-generation system operating at One Central Park. Image reproduced from ‘Central Park Sydney’ website.
Figure 2: Simplified diagram showing how the Membrane Bioreactor operates. Image reproduced from ‘Central Park Sydney’ website.

Images belong to the author, unless otherwise stated. In the above case, Figures 1 and 2 (tri-generation system and membrane bioreactor system) belong to One Central Park. 

Planet Fest at World Parks Congress


(Image credit: World Parks Congress host and partner organisations)

The event i am looking forward to most at the World Parks Congress is PlanetFest, a FREE event, open to the general public. The event offers an ideal opportunity for the public, national and international delegates and exhibitors to meet, mingle and learn from about large scale conservation planning and management.

Some of the activities planned for the day include;

1. A mobile zoo where Australian native animals will be on show

2. Meeting bush rangers from different national parks

3. An environmental documentary narrated by Cate Blanchett

If you are free on Sunday and looking for something to do in Sydney, PlanetFest is the place to be.

(I will upload some pictures from the day as well so keep an eye out for those)