West Head Lookout upgrade

National Parks and Wildlife Service is delivering safety upgrades to West Head Lookout in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

West Head Lookout, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, with temporary fence due to upgradesWest Head, in Kur-ring-gai Chase National Park, is a popular destination for visitors. The West Head Lookout is considered one of Sydney's best vantage points with views across Broken Bay to Barrenjoey Headland, Lion Island and the Central Coast.

The West Head Lookout was built in the mid-1960s. In early 2021, an assessment of condition by a structural engineer identified structural and safety risk to visitors. Temporary fencing was installed in May 2021 to eliminate this risk to public safety while further assessments and plans were developed. During this time, West Head remains open and visitors can still access the lookout, the views and surrounds, but cannot get close to the edge.

What is happening at the West Head Lookout?

Over the past few months, NPWS has been working towards the development of new concept designs to address safety and structural issues and concerns from stakeholders regarding the protection of heritage and aesthetic values of the site.

We engaged Bruce Mackenzie, the landscape architect behind the original 1963 design, to prepare a concept for the safety improvements which preserves the design intent and landscape values of the lookout. Oculus Landscape Architecture and Urban Design have been engaged to develop detailed designs which reflect this concept. 

NPWS is proposing to:

  • strengthen the wall and lookout with new retaining supports under the pavement
  • reduce the risk of falls by installing a barrier below the existing perimeter of the lookout
  • retain the character and iconic views from the lookout.

The temporary fencing will remain in place while this planning and design work is underway.

The concept designs are expected to be ready to present to the community for feedback in July 2022. 

Then, subject to the necessary environmental approvals, we intend to invite tenders for construction in the second half of 2022. A construction program will be developed once the contract is awarded.

Stakeholders, visitors and users of the park will be kept informed of this project as it develops. Updates will be available from this project webpage and the project newsletter as they become available. Anyone can sign up to receive the newsletter; please complete the online form below to register.

In accordance with NSW planning legislation, we will carry out rigorous environmental and heritage assessment of the site with input from relevant specialists. The proposed works align with the overall strategy for the management of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park outlined in the plan of management (2002; amended 2014).

The heritage and character of places in our national parks is a consideration for all projects that require repairs, remediation works or upgrades. This must be balanced with our responsibilities for visitor safety and risk management.

An engineering inspection was completed as part of National Parks and Wildlife Service's Asset Management Program. This inspection revealed concerns in the structural stability of the lookout. Further investigation was undertaken, and advice was provided, which led to the installation of temporary fencing in May 2021. A long-term solution is being developed to remediate the lookout and reduce the risk to visitors.

We must consider potential risks for harm within all national parks in New South Wales, particularly in places which experience high visitation, such as West Head Lookout. The 2 components of this work – strengthening the wall and lookout with below ground supports and reducing the risk of falls will improve the overall safety of this structure.

The structural improvements that will be delivered as part of this project are essential to avoid the risk of collapse or failure. In addition, fatalities have occurred in national parks due to falls, and we have a responsibility to manage and reduce this risk where possible.

We have sought expert advice to inform and guide this project. This has included:

  • structural engineering
  • geotechnical engineering
  • heritage
  • risk assessment
  • environmental impact
  • Aboriginal heritage
  • Building Code of Australia advice
  • access consultant advice

In planning this project, design options consider the physical and visual impacts on the lookout, including character and views as well as risk to visitor safety and our responsibilities for managing this risk. 

We are committed to retaining the special character and iconic views from West Head whilst ensuring visitors safety. 

Do you have any questions?

If we’ve missed anything, please send us your question and the project team will provide updates via this webpage.

West Head Lookout upgrade