Replacement of the Nielsen Park seawall

National Parks and Wildlife Service is replacing the concrete seawall at Nielsen Park, part of the Sydney Harbour National Park.

Important

Replacement of the seawall has commenced.

Shark Beach and the promenade remain closed while the works are being carried out.

The Nielsen Park Kiosk is closed for renovations.

The seawall at Nielsen Park has served visitors well for nearly 100 years. In July 2016, the seawall was badly damaged by waves during a large storm. Some sections of the sandstone seawall along the western part of the beach have since been repaired, but the 160-metre concrete seawall has reached the end of its serviceable life.

National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has demolished the old seawall and will be constructing a new seawall more capable of withstanding adverse weather conditions and sea level rise, while improving accessibility to the beach. This once-in-a-lifetime project will conserve the site's sensitive natural, cultural and historic heritage significance while improving the structure to meet visitor and operational needs.

Nielsen Park at Vaucluse was incorporated into Sydney Harbour National Park in 1975 and was listed on the NSW State Heritage Register in 2018 in recognition of its outstanding natural and cultural landscape, demonstrating a rich and diverse range of uses spanning from Aboriginal occupation to the present. As a sensitive site, unforeseen issues may arise during the construction phase. These issues will be managed appropriately under relevant legislation and regulations, and we will provide updates to the community via this webpage as they become available.

The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is pleased to announce that Cherrie Civil Engineering has been engaged to complete the replacement of the Nielsen Park seawall after an earlier works contract was terminated. As part of the engagement process, the department and independent experts undertook a detailed review and assessment of the construction methodology and program. This review was done to ensure the project can be completed as soon as possible and without compromising on safety or longevity of the seawall.

Cherrie Civil Engineering commenced off-site planning and preparations from April to May 2023 and commenced on site works in June 2023. The current construction program forecasts completion of the seawall's concrete bleachers and removal of the protective sheet pile wall no earlier than February 2024. Full completion, including promenade works and landscaping is forecast for June 2024. This is subject to adverse weather and any latent site conditions.

The unfortunate delays to this project have extended the closure beyond the original scope, and we understand this has impacted the local community and visitors. However, we are taking great care to ensure the best outcome for our community and the park's natural, cultural and historic values.

Shark Beach, including the water immediately in front of the beach, remains closed to visitors. For public safety, access to the beach, water and promenade cannot be provided. Visitors should follow safety and detour signage instructions while construction is underway. Please do not enter the fenced work areas.

The Sydney Restaurant Group are taking this opportunity to carry out renovations to the historic Nielsen Park Kiosk, the Halbert Pavilion and the Swimming and Life Saving Club. These venues will reopen to the public once the seawall works are completed in 2024.

Short-term accommodation bookings can still be made for Steele Point Cottage.

Replacement of the Nielsen Park seawall is a complex project. National Parks and Wildlife Service wishes to thank the community for their understanding and patience while this project is underway. Once completed, the new seawall and promenade works will improve accessibility and amenity at Shark Beach and protect Nielsen Park so that visitors can enjoy it for another 100 years.

The development application for the replacement of the Nielsen Park seawall was submitted on 30 June 2020 and advertised and notified in accordance with Section A2 – Advertising and Notification, of council's Woollahra Development Control Plan 2015 from 2 September to 1 October 2020.

The project was approved by the Sydney East Regional Planning Panel on 18 February 2021.

The Section 60 approval from Heritage NSW was received on 16 April 2021.

Stage Status
Site investigation, analysis and development of concept plans (PDF 4.8MB) Completed 2020
Development application submitted to Woollahra Council on 30 June 2020 Approved by the Sydney East Regional Planning Panel, 18 February 2021
Heritage Act Section 60 approval via Heritage NSW Approved 16 April 2021
Development of detailed designs and appointment of construction contractor Completed 2021
Procurement of construction contractor Completed 2021
Demolition of the concrete seawall Underway from 1 March 2022
Engagement of new construction contractor April 2023
Construction of the seawall Recommence May 2023
Expected completion (subject to weather and latent site conditions) May 2024 for seawall and concrete bleachers
June 2024 for promenade and landscaping works

Stakeholders, visitors and nearby residents will be kept informed of this project as it develops. Updates will be available from this project webpage. You can also register to receive updates directly via the online form at the end of this page.

In accordance with NSW planning legislation, we have carried out a rigorous environmental assessment of the site with input from specialists in landscape architecture, archaeology, heritage, engineering and coastal management. The project is consistent with the Sydney Harbour National Park Plan of Management 2012 and the Nielsen Park Conservation Management Plan 2013.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service is committed to delivering this project whilst ensuring the natural and cultural values of the park are protected.

There will be unavoidable impacts to visitation during the construction phase in 2023 and 2024. In preparing the schedule of works, a balance between effects on visitor convenience, cost, and environmental impact of staging the works has been considered.

Please be aware of the following changes:

  • The construction zone will include Shark Beach and the promenade from Greycliffe Avenue, which will be closed for the project's duration.
  • The Nielsen kiosk and restaurant is closed. Renovations to this building are underway. The reopening date will be advised.
  • Short term accommodation bookings at Gardener’s Cottage will be suspended for the duration of the project. Steele Point Cottage is available for bookings.
  • Events in Nielsen Park will be suspended during the duration of the project.
  • The toilets at the eastern end of the beach (near the Greycliffe Avenue entry) will be closed.
  • The toilets located at the Steele Point end of the promenade, the Dressing Pavilion and the women's toilets off Bottle and Glass Road will remain open.
  • The Hermitage walking track will remain open. Detours through Nielsen Park away from Shark Beach will be marked on site.
  • Bottle and Glass Point, Shakespeare's Point, and most of Nielsen Park south of the promenade remain open.
Neilsen Park seawall construction zone map 

Visitors and local residents can access a number of other beaches, picnic areas and swimming facilities in the vicinity of Shark Bay and Nielsen Park. This includes:

South

  • Milk Beach (500m)
  • Hermit Beach (1 km)
  • Queens Beach (1 km)
  • Rose Bay Beach (2kms)
  • Murray Rose Pool, formally known as Redleaf is netted (5 kms)

East/North

  • Parsley Bay Beach (2 kms)
  • Kutti Beach (3 kms)
  • Gibsons Beach (3 kms)
  • Watsons Bay Baths (3.3 kms)
  • Watsons Bay Beach (3.8 kms)
  • Camp Cove Beach (4 kms)

A busy construction site located next to a body of water. Multiple workers in safety vests and helmets are scattered across the site, engaged in various activities. Heavy machinery, including a yellow excavator, assists in the construction work. The area is marked with orange safety barriers and cones to designate working zones. Wooden structures, possibly formwork for concrete, are being constructed along the waterfront. A stone building and trees are visible in the background, indicating that this construction site is close to an established area or park.

Works on the seawall bleachers continue to progress despite recent wet weather. Photo taken 16 May 2024.

During the demolition of the concrete seawall, asbestos was found in the fill under the concrete seawall. As the seawall was built c. 1930s, it is not unusual to find this type of material which had been used in construction projects since 1921. The site was immediately secured and an Environmental Hygienist attended. An Asbestos Management Plan was implemented and this hazardous material was removed in April 2022. This was undertaken by specialist teams with dust mitigation measures and air monitoring to ensure that fibres did not become airborne. All trucks leaving the site were sealed, and the material was disposed at a licensed off-site facility. Testing of the site has been undertaken to ensure all hazardous material has been removed. Monitoring will continue to ensure that any additional material is identified and safely removed.

The existing vehicle ramp at the east end of Shark Beach will be rebuilt as part of this project to allow access to the beach for park operations such as the annual removal of the shark net. Visitors will also be able to use this ramp for launching kayaks, paddleboards and the like.

A new pedestrian ramp will be constructed between this ramp and the toilets. This pedestrian ramp will provide compliant accessibility to the beach.

Additional stairs which are access compliant will also be installed along the length of the seawall.

Additional options such as handrails or pathways onto the beach have been considered. However, Shark Beach regularly experiences damaging storm surges. These storm surges can result in significant sand movement and undermine infrastructure. Installation of permanent infrastructure on the beach itself was therefore not considered feasible. We will continue to investigate and review accessibility improvements in the park.

The row of trees along the grassed area on the beach side of the promenade are located within the construction zone.

While it is regrettable to remove any trees, the extent of works includes complete demolition, excavation and reconstruction of this area. New, mature trees of the same species removed will be planted as part of this project. An additional 5 trees will be planted along the beach front.

The project team carefully considered the materiality and character of Shark Beach. The seawall itself will be approximately 0.5m higher at the promenade level, while the structure will extend deeper below the beach surface to reduce the risk of gaps resulting from the movement of sand during storm events. Additionally, the design of the new seawall will incorporate the following:

  • modified bleachers profile with wave deflectors built in to manage storm events
  • stairs, ramps and level changes will be made access compliant
  • the landscape amenity will be improved (increased lawn areas and more shade trees).

No. Shark Beach will be a construction site with a break wall built on the beach and significant earthworks, piling rigs, concrete pumps and heavy vehicle movements in and around the site. For public safety, access to the beach and promenade cannot provided during the demolition and construction phase.

Public access to the beach and promenade will be reinstated as soon as it is safe to do so.

Staging the works was considered to allow access to the water for visitors. However, given the small site, the considerable set up and establishment works required and the limited availability of specialist contractors and equipment it was not a practical option. It is a quicker and more cost effective to do the works in one go. Extending the duration of the project by staging the works, will have a greater impact on visitors, businesses and neighbouring community.

Currently, there are no plans to upgrade the Dressing Pavilion building while the seawall replacement is underway.

April 2024 update

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service is replacing the concrete seawall at Nielsen Park, part of the Sydney Harbour National Park.

  • 29 Apr 2024

Do you have any questions?

If you have questions about this project, please fill out the form below or email the Sydney South Area at npws.sydneysouth@environment.nsw.gov.au. The project team will provide updates via this webpage.

The information you provide in this form will only be used for the purpose for which it was collected. By submitting, you consent to storage, use, and disclosure of your personal information in accordance with our privacy policy. You can request access and amendment of your personal information.

Nielsen Park Seawall Rebuild Project