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.

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

National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is committed to maintaining access and improving the convenience of Nielsen Park and Shark Beach for our visitors and local community and is planning to replace the old seawall. This once in a life-time project will enhance visitor access and safety and ensure the new work is undertaken sensitively with consideration of the natural, cultural and social environment, heritage significance, and visitor and NPWS operational needs.

Nielsen Park at Vaucluse was incorporated into Sydney Harbour National Park in 1978 and was placed on the NSW State Heritage Register in 2018. The Park is of state heritage significance as an outstanding natural and cultural landscape demonstrating a rich and diverse range of uses spanning pre-European settlement to the present. 

Visitors continue to be attracted to Nielsen Park to:

  • enjoy a swim at the family friendly Shark Beach, which is netted during the warm swimming months
  • enjoy spectacular harbour views while relaxing in the shady grounds
  • observe remnant bush areas and native wildlife
  • take a break at the Nielsen Park kiosk
  • journey along the Hermitage Foreshore Walk.

What is proposed?

NPWS has completed site investigations and analysis which informed the development of the replacement seawall concept. The new structure will have improved accessibility including separate pedestrian and vehicular ramps. It will also be upgraded to withstand future storm events and sea level rise. The character of Shark Beach will be retained with complementary materials.

Download the plans and sketches for more information.

Development Application exhibition

The development application for the replacement of the Nielsen Park seawall is now being advertised and notified in accordance with Section A2 – Advertising and Notification, of Council’s Woollahra Development Control Plan 2015 from 2nd September to 1st October 2020.

Visit Woollahra Council's e-Services and search for DA number 223/2020 to access the application package. Submissions can be made to Council, however, if there are any questions or feedback about the project, you can contact us directly via email at npws.sydneysouth@environment.nsw.gov.au.

Project stages and timeframes

  • Site investigation, analysis and development of concept plans (PDF 4.8MB): Early 2020 (complete)
  • Development application approval (Woollahra Council): Mid 2020 (underway)
  • Development of detailed designs and appointment of construction contractor: Late 2020
  • Construction of the seawall (9 months construction phase): Scheduled to commence April 2021
  • Completion of the project: Scheduled end of 2021

NPWS may adjust the schedule as the project develops during the construction stage to strike a balance between minimising the impact on visitors and working with environmental considerations, such as high tides and significant storm events, to deliver the project in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Community engagement

Stakeholders, visitors and nearby residents will be kept informed of this project as it develops. Updates will be available from this project webpage.

Protecting park values

In accordance with NSW planning legislation, NPWS has carried out a rigorous environmental assessment of the site with input from specialists in landscape architecture, archaeology, heritage, engineering and coastal management. The project will be consistent with the Sydney Harbour National Park Plan of Management 2012 and the Nielsen Park Conservation Management Plan 2013. Necessary approvals including a Review of Environmental Factors (REF) will be prepared to support development approvals. A Development Application will be submitted to Woollahra Council in mid-2020.

Temporary closures and visitor updates

There will be unavoidable impacts to visitor access and convenience of the beach and surrounding area during the construction phase (scheduled for 2021). In preparing the schedule of works, NPWS will consider a balance between effects on visitor convenience, cost and environmental impact of staging the works.

Visitors and the community will be kept informed of necessary closures and access to Nielsen Park and Shark Bay through online alerts via the NPWS website and onsite signage.

Do you have any questions?

For further information on the project, please email the Sydney South Area at npws.sydneysouth@environment.nsw.gov.au.

If you have any questions about this project, please fill out the form below and the project team will provide updates via this webpage.

How is accessibility on to the beach being managed?

The existing ramp at the east end of Shark Beach will be rebuilt to allow access to the beach for park operations such as the annual removal of the shark net. Visitors will also be able to continue 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.

What is happening to the trees along the promenade?

An arborist assessed all trees around the seawall with most identified for retention. The trees that have been identified for removal have evidence of deadwood and poor crown condition. The row of trees along the grassed area on the beach side of the promenade are located within the construction zone which extends to the park side of the promenade.

While it is regrettable to remove any trees, the extent of works includes complete demolition, excavation and reconstruction. New, mature trees which are endemic to the area will be planted as part of this project with additional trees along the grassed area.

How will the new seawall change the beachfront?

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 that can result 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 (lawn and trees).

Will access to the beach and water be maintained during construction?

This is a significant, once in a lifetime project which will involve heavy machinery and frequent vehicle movements. NPWS will investigate access opportunities during the detailed design stage and communicate any changes to regular and occasional visitors regarding restrictions. However, the beach may need to be closed during the construction stage to maintain safety for the public and works crews.

If you have any questions about this project, please fill out the form below and the project team will provide updates via this webpage.