canal reserve action group
save the canal campaign - 1994 to 2004

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the "save the canal" story
When Sydney Water decided to build the Prospect Tunnel, making the Lower Prospect Canal Reserve surplus to their needs, there was consideration given to selling the site for non-recreational development. Local residents saw this as a retrograde step given the beauty and unique qualities of the site.

Consequently, the Greystanes Progress Association called a public meeting on 4 September 1994 (Father's Day) and the Canal Reserve Action Group (CRAG) was formed to represent the views of the general community in regard to the Lower Prospect Canal Reserve following decommissioning of the water canal (see CRAG's Save the Canal campaign charter).
The late Alan Reid, representing the Greystanes
Progress Association, addresses the meeting that formed CRAG

photo courtesy of Parramatta Mercury 8 September 1994
Between 1994 and 2004 CRAG set about lobbying for repatriation of the site and development for passive recreation. It was a long campaign, but ultimately a very successful one, as the open water canal was filled and a cycleway / walkway constructed for the full 7.7kms of the corridor.

This cycleway forms part of a much wider cycleway that is expanding across Sydney. The canal reserve however brings something unique, given that for its entire length cyclists and walkers do not need to cross a single road as the old canal has provided underpasses.

the hard yards

CRAG funded itself by holding two garages sales in 1994 and 1996. The $2,700 raised kept the group going for it's 9 and half year life.

During the early days CRAG held a number of information evenings that attracted in the vicinity of 300 residents. From those evenings it was clear that the community saw no value in allowing the Canal Reserve to become a housing estate. The problem then became to convince the NSW State Government and Sydney Water, and to obtain the funding required to open the reserve to the public.

Awareness activities such as a protest rally, floats in the Holroyd Family Festival Street Parade and stalls at the Family Festival were used to focus the community on the issue. All the while, the canal site was researched and continual correspondence and dialogue was maintained with the NSW State Government, Sydney Water, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Urban Affairs and Planning and Holroyd City Council.

Various CRAG community awareness activities.
A regular newsletter was also published by CRAG to keep local residents informed. Volunteers letterboxed over 4000 houses along the full length of the Canal Reserve, on an "as needed" basis, for 9 and a half years.

CRAG's hard work began to pay off in May 1996 when the NSW State Government announced that the Lower Prospect Canal would be purchased from Sydney Water for $17,000,000 for use as a reserve. Of course, this removed the threat from Sydney Water's desire to sell the land for medium density housing but it didn't resolve the safety issues of an open canal that presented a serious falling hazard and therefore prevented community use of the reserve.

After extensive community consultation, CRAG produced, in July 1996, a document entitled 'Prospect Lower Canal Lineal Park Development and Management Proposal' which was presented to the NSW State Government. This document represented the communities wishes for the future of the Canal Reserve.

Although the NSW State Government announced, in November 1996, that a Steering Committee would be formed to produce a Plan of Management (POM), it took until November 1997 for funds of $100,000 to be made available to make the POM a reality.

Extensive consultation and review meant that the POM, prepared by Environmental Partnership on behalf of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), wasn't formally released until December 1998. NPWS issued this press release when the Draft Plan of Management was released.

Artist's impression of the Canal Reserve
as presented in the Plan of Management

image courtesy of Environmental Partnership
The Plan of Management won the 1999 Australian Institute of Landscape Architects Planning Project Award - Plans of Management and EIAs.

May 2000 finally saw a NSW State Government budget allocation of $1,500,000 which would allow the project to commence. It is October 2000 before the Development Application is prepared and then approved by Holroyd City Council but work does not commence until 17 April 2003.

May 2001 sees a further budget allocation of $2,400,000 to continue the project through the 2001/2002 financial year.

In August 2001, CRAG proposed that the Canal Reserve be formally named the Lower Prospect Canal Reserve. This submission was supported by Holroyd City Council and submitted to, and accepted by the Geographic Names Board of NSW. It is now the formal name of the reserve since it was officially recorded in the NSW Government Gazette of 9 August 2002.

A federation grant of $60,000 provided to Holroyd City Council was put towards the provision of signage along the Lower Prospect Canal Reserve. The ceremony to unveil an example of the signage was held 5 November 2001.

Some of CRAG's members at a ceremony to launch signage for the Canal Reserve.

back, l to r: John Merrick, Sandra Merrick, The Hon Janice Crosio - MP for Prospect,
Helen Norton, Judy Norton, Steve Norton, Clr Mark Pigram - Mayor of Holroyd
front, l to r: Fred Crowe, Brett Meade

photo courtesy of Holroyd City Herald Summer 2001
Another $2,000,000 was provided by the NSW State Government in the 2002/2003 budget year which took the total expenditure by the NSW State Government to $23,000,000 to make the Lower Prospect Canal Reserve a reality.

Stage 2 of the cycleway to Bayfield Street Greystanes was officially opened, on 15 August 2002, by the NSW Minister for the Environment, Bob Debus.

By December 2002 there were approximately 5,000 native plants planted at the Guildford end of the site. That planting work was only the start as approximately 15,000 plants had been propagated from seed collected from the Canal Reserve for regeneration.

August 2003 saw the cycleway completed along the entire length of the Lower Prospect Canal Reserve and the reserve opened for use by the community. Landscaping and planting works continued into early 2004 which completed CRAG's vision for the site.

6 February 2004 saw the Lower Prospect Canal Reserve gazetted as Crown Land and in a formal ceremony on 15 February 2004 the NSW Department of Lands handed the reserve to Holroyd City Council as the Trustee for the Crown Land.

Canal Reserve Action Group Inc
Save the Canal Campaign
4 September 1994 to 18 February 2004

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