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Sydney Olympic Millennium Parklands

Landscape Performance Benefits


  • Restored and protected more than 15 miles of continuous waterfront along the Parramatta River and Homebush Bay, including a 124-acre aboriginal forest.
  • Produced over 4,600 megaliters of recycled water over 7 years, providing irrigation and grey water for the parklands. Of total water consumption during this period, only 2% was sourced from Sydney’s water supply despite one of the worst droughts in Australia’s history.
  • Treats contaminated soils. Roughly 35 megaliters of leachate have been collected and transferred to a waste treatment facility. Groundwater contaminated with 750kg of hydrocarbons, including 430kg of benzene, has been successfully degraded by microorganisms in the Wilson Park bioremediation ponds.
  • Provides habitat for more than 180 native species of birds, including those in decline in other areas. The once-endangered Green and Golden Bell Frog population in the parklands is now one of the largest populations in New South Wales.


  • Provides venues for a variety of recreation and leisure pursuits for 2.5 million people annually, primarily those from Sydney’s western suburbs. Visitation grew from 750,000 in 2002 to 2.3 million in 2007.
  • Provides educational opportunities for nearly 20,000 children annually, with 18,600 school students participating in curriculum-based environmental education programs in the parklands in 2006-07.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    PWP Landscape Architecture

  • Project Type

    Nature preserve
    Park/Open space

  • Former Land Use


  • Location

    Sydney Olympic Park
    Sydney NSW 2127

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  • Climate Zone

    Humid subtropical

  • Size

    1,000+ acres

  • Budget

    $50 million

  • Completion Date


The Parklands surround the site of the 2000 Sydney Olympics at Homebush Bay, covering an area slightly larger than New York City’s Central Park that had once been home to various industrial uses and was contaminated with commercial and industrial waste. The strategies devised to deal with huge quantities of both contaminated material and clean fill on site, to integrate the technical water recycling systems, and to create an environment in which native plants can thrive, have set world standards. The resulting parklands, which were designed to be dry and self-sustaining, reconnect residents of the western suburbs to Sydney’s major waterway and provide recreation and education opportunities for 2.5 million visitors annually.

  • Contaminated soil was collected and capped to create a series of positive landforms, ranging from 20-60 m in height.
  • A central surface parking lot was replanted and partially developed as a park arrival and service village to provide information and a starting point for train, jitney, bicycle, and pedestrian ways.
  • A system of separate paths for walking, bicycling, and jogging stretches the full length of the river and bay frontage and includes a continuous lighted boardwalk and bicycle promenade.
  • The Ring Walk, a 550-m elevated circular walkway, allows visitors to view the historic Brick Pit, which provides habitat for the Green and Golden Bell Frog.
  • Linear forested buffers were created around each of the parkland parcels.
  • Haslams Creek was completely restored into a seemingly naturalistic streambed leading down through the park to the Parramatta River.
  • Mangrove swamps were reestablished along the river from Bicentennial Park to Homebush Bay, doubling the bird and insect habitat.
  • The lawn and buildings of the former Royal Australian Navy Armaments Depot and a 124-acre aboriginal forest were preserved and restored.


Sydney’s bid to host the 2000 Summer Olympic Games included a commitment to environmental sustainability in all projects associated with the games. The concept plan for the Olympic and park sites was required to respond to five key environmental principles: water conservation, waste minimization, pollution avoidance, and the protection of significant natural and cultural environments. Most of the Olympic Park site had been previously degraded, first by use as an abattoir in the 19th century and then by chemical and heavy-manufacturing facilities in the 20th, and more than 65% of the site was saturated to some degree with chemical waste.


The project’s unique concept plan, developed with a team of experts from 15 different organizations, incorporated the environmental protection requirements and led to the development of ground-breaking technologies such as large-scale use of facsimile soils and on-site land remediation strategies. The plan also combined the physical elements with expandable and ambitious management and educational programs, which formed the basis for the Plan of Management guiding the evolution of the places and programs of the parklands.

  • Familiarity with the concept plan, and the involvement of personnel with good landscape design skill, is needed for the successful ongoing implementation and development of the concept plan. In-house design experts should have a strong understanding of the plan and  all consultants engaged in projects in the parklands should be provided with a copy of the concept plan. It would also be desirable to have a member of the original design team on an advisory board to provide expert advice to decision makers to maintain the continuity of design thought.
  • The adoption of the Site-wide Planting Strategy, and adherence to it over the past 10 years, was important to the successful realization of key elements of the concept plan. The continued application of the planting strategy is fundamental to the development of the site’s landscape character.
  • The site wide drainage/water system originally planned for the parklands and the urban core was not implemented as originally intended. This has compromised successful setting establishment in some areas and was a missed opportunity to capture all stormwater for recycling, resulting in the need to redesign and replant some areas, and unnecessary additional expense.
  • Some of the roads through the parklands have become thoroughfares for the trucks and cars servicing the new residential developments and are no longer subservient to the landscape, as was envisaged in the concept plan. This is particularly apparent on the north end of Hill Road, which has less parkland character now than it did 10 years ago due to the removal of verge plantings along the eastern side of the road.
  • The requirement to provide parking has been a contentious issue since beginning of the parklands and remains problematic. The presence of the P5 parking lot in the center of the site is viewed by many as an impediment to connectivity and integration. Limited public transport both to and within the park, exacerbates the problem.

Project Team

Client: Sydney Olympic Park Authority (formerly OCA Olympic Coordination Authority)
Landscape Architect : Peter Walker Partners Landscape Architecture
Associate Landscape Architect: Bruce Mackenzie Design
Architect: Hassell
Engineer: Kinhill Engineers Pty., Ltd.
Recreation: HM Leisure Planning Pty., Ltd.
Landfill Engineer: RH Amaral and Associates
Lighting: Barry Webb and Associates

Role of the Landscape Architect

Led design of park spanning more than a thousand acres.


Soil creation, preservation & restoration, Water conservation, Water quality, Habitat creation, preservation & restoration, Populations & species richness, Recreational & social value, Educational value, Bioremediation, Greywater reuse, Native Plants, Trail, Trees, Wetland, Restoration

The LPS Case Study Briefs are produced by the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF), working in conjunction with designers and/or academic research teams to assess performance and document each project. LAF has no involvement in the design, construction, operation, or maintenance of the projects. See the Project Team tab for details. If you have questions or comments on the case study itself, contact us at (email hidden; JavaScript is required).

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