Greater Sydney Harbour Coastal Management Program

Watch our education video to find out more about the Greater Sydney Harbour Coastal Management Program (GSHCMP) and how it can help improve catchment and waterway health for our iconic Harbour.


Purpose of a Coastal Management Program  

Under the Coastal Management Act 2016 (CM Act) councils may prepare Coastal Management Programs (CMPs) which set out the long-term strategy for the coordinated management of the coast, with a focus on achieving the objects and objectives of the CM Act.

CMPs identify coastal management issues in the area, the actions required to address these issues, and how and when those actions will be implemented. They detail costs and proposed cost-sharing arrangements and other viable funding mechanisms.

The CM Act (and other relevant legislation) establishes specific roles and responsibilities for relevant Ministers, the NSW Coastal Council, public authorities and local councils, as well as providing opportunities for communities to participate when preparing and implementing a CMP.

You can find out more detailed information about Catchment Management Programs here.


Greater Sydney Harbour Coastal Management Program (GSHCMP)

Greater Sydney Harbour is one of the world’s greatest harbours and as such is a state, national and global asset. It stretches from its upper tidal limits on the Parramatta River downstream to the ocean entrance between North and South Head. Its catchments are the home of 3.07 million people (projected to go to 4.35 million by 2041) and the region is responsible for around 25% of the nation’s GDP[1].

Greater Sydney Harbour is a magnet for tourists the world over and a source of great ecological diversity. Its waters are threatened by possible adverse impacts of population growth and development and potential impacts of climate change including sea-level rise and high magnitude catchment runoff.

At the centre of Australia’s largest city, the harbour is subject to intense human activity which presents coastal managers with many challenges. Understandably, developing and delivering a whole-of-catchment CMP will be a complex task with the project team currently working with 33 stakeholders to plan and deliver the GSHCMP. Buy-in and participation by all levels of government and the community is needed to achieve a strategic and coordinated management framework for the Harbour.

The Sydney Coastal Councils Group is the project manager for the GSHCMP. It will be whole-of-catchment and encompass Sydney Harbour tidal waterways and its catchment lands.


Current Governance Structure for the GSHCMP

The SCCG is the project manager for the GSHCMP project team, steering committee and partners group. Professor Bruce Thom from the NSW Coastal Council is the Chair.

The project team consists of members of the DPIE, NSW Coastal Council, Parramatta River Catchment Group (PRCG).

The Steering Committee assists in guiding the governance arrangements, cost sharing and development of the grant for the Greater Sydney Harbour CMP. It includes various state agency members, the SCCG, PRCG, Greater Sydney Commission, Transport NSW and Sydney Water.

The Partners Group assists the Steering Committee in ensuring appropriate consultation and collaboration across all relevant parties involved in the management and use of Sydney Harbour. The Partners Group largely comprises of local councils.

The Terms of Reference for the Steering Committee and Partners Group can be viewed here. For more information contact SCCG.


Our current stage in the CMP

There are generally five stages of a risk management process in preparing and implementing a CMP. The first stage is the preparation of a scoping study.

The Stage 1 Scoping Study for the GSHCMP was completed in 2018 and was a collaborative project with stakeholders from local and state government, Sydney Water and the Sydney Institute of Marine Sciences. The scoping study:

  • identifies opportunities for collaborative partnering in development of Sydney Harbour CMP
  • recommends whole-of-system approach
  • outlines a Preliminary Risk Assessment
  • provides a Forward Plan
  • details studies that will contribute to Stage 2.

The Sydney Harbour Water Quality Improvement Plan has also been completed and provides a strong base for the development of the GSHCMP.


See the latest June Communique circulated to GSH CMP Steering Committee and Partners Group


The scope of the CMP

The Scoping Study outlined the scope of the GSHCMP and centres around four management areas defined in the Coastal Management Act 2016: wetlands and littoral rainforests, coastal use areas, coastal environment areas and coastal use areas. It encompasses the tidal waterways of Port Jackson, Parramatta River, Lane Cove River, Middle Harbour and their catchments.

The Scoping Study recommends a whole-of-system approach with a long-term vision to:

  • support the coordinated management and ecologically sustainable development of Greater Sydney Harbour to maintain its exceptional social, cultural, economic and environmental values, and symbolic status as Australia’s most globally iconic waterway.
  • the next stage (Stage 2), which will focus on coastal hazards and threats.


Conceptual Model of Wet and Dry Weather Conditions 



To download, click here.

These conceptual models show the impacts of stormwater discharge into Greater Sydney Harbour under both wet and dry weather conditions. The models were developed by Sydney Water in partnership with the SCCG, PRCG and DPIE project team.


The importance of working together

A single, whole-of-system Coastal Management Program is needed to facilitate coordinated and integrated management of Australia’s most iconic and important waterway.

Local councils have a central role in managing the coast. The Sydney Coastal Councils Group promotes collaboration between member councils on environmental issues relating to the urban coastal and estuarine environment. We represent nearly 1.3 million Sydneysiders with six councils adjacent to Sydney marine and estuarine environments and associated waterways.

There are a host of benefits to working together in a holistic and integrated way as part of the Sydney Coastal Councils Group – improved environmental outcomes, improved capacity to address strategic and harbour-wide issues and interest, better communication, advocacy and promotion and efficiency savings to name a few.

Please contact SCCG if you’d like to join the many benefits of being a member council.



Sydney Harbour, Courtesy of Department of Planning, Industry and Environment