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North Head Sanctuary Draft Master Plan Unveiled

COX and the Harbour Trust acknowledge the Traditional Custodians and Owners of the lands, waters, and sky of Sydney Harbour, including the places under our stewardship. We respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Sydney Harbour, including those belonging to the Borogegal, Birrabirrigal, Cammeraygal, Gadigal, Gayamagal, Wallumedegal and Wangal clans.

First Nations cultural guidance in development of the Draft Master Plan has been provided by the Gujaga Foundation representing Traditional Owners.

North Head is one of Sydney’s great landmarks with a relatively intact and delicate ecosystem. A relic of the Ice Age, tethered to the mainland by Manly’s sandspit, it is a sacred site for First Nations people. Initial investigation suggests the area as a place of gathering and ritual, its ecosystem tended to for thousands of years.

After 14 months of collaboration with the Harbour Trust, the draft master plan has now been released for public exhibition. It sets the stage for North Head’s revitalisation, aligning with the Harbour Trust’s North Head Management Plan and honours its rich cultural, natural and First Nations significance. It outlines the full potential, rather than what current funding permits, so future decisions on projects and staging can be made strategically.

Sydney Harbour Federation Trust Executive Director Janet Carding

We aim to create new experiences for visitors through making North Head Sanctuary more accessible and welcoming, while regenerating North Head’s unique natural landscape and enhancing its important role in supporting and enhancing biodiversity on the edge of the city.

The master plan sets a long-term vision that reflects the community’s values for North Head Sanctuary, refined through consultations dating back to 2020. This vision is to offer an all-inclusive visitor experience for the entire headland, providing opportunities to:

Encounter a unique natural environment at the edge of the Sydney CBD

  • Celebrate First Nations culture and support continuing cultural connections and practices
  • Discover 20th century military heritage
  • Create an accessible, welcoming destination

[Above: watercolours by Dtai Hansathit]

The plan aims to create a welcoming and accessible route through the heart of the headland to its tip, that encourages exploration of the cultural landscape and wildlife sanctuary, offering visitors opportunities to enrich and deepen their understanding of the values of North Head.

Key spaces have been envisaged as stops on the journey through the headland, and open up the opportunity for loop walks and detours for visitors. These include:

  1. Welcome, arrival, and orientation
  2. Parade Ground, Main Barracks building and Sergeants Mess activation
  3. Makers and Restoration Precinct
  4. First Nations cultural practice and connecting with Country
  5. Environmental education, interpretation and research
  6. Exploration of Defence of the Nation in WWII
  7. Enhanced food and beverage
  8. Looped walks that explore values and enrich understanding

The draft master plan has been designed through the lens of three clearly defined precincts; The Barracks Precinct, The Central Precinct and the North Fort Precinct.

The Barracks Precinct to the northernmost part of the site focuses on the reconfiguration of the entry experience. The intent is to invest in a gateway function, a formalised entry to this precinct to the Parade Ground, that acknowledges the military use but creates a space and an arrival experience that connects to the landscape and gives patrons that enhanced sense of arrival.

For this precinct, the plan also looks at reconfiguring how vehicles move through the site, separating them from the core of the precinct and elevating the pedestrian and cycling experience.

The Parade Ground will include some improvements to the pathways and landscape; enhancing the public realm while maintaining its use as an event space. The current amenities at the barracks site would be improved and its main building, adapted and reused for more food and beverage options.

[Above: watercolours by Dtai Hansathit]

The “Central Precinct,” situated between the former School of Artillery complex and the historic North Fort military defence zone, is designed to host a “First Nations Cultural Space” and repurpose existing sheds to house an ecology and environmental centre. This strategic development serves as the thriving focal point of North Head, dedicated to the celebration of First Nations culture and the ecological significance of the region. The precinct is destined to become a vibrant hub for cultural activities, fostering a sense of community. Its strategic location on the primary pedestrian and bicycle thoroughfare linking the Barracks Precinct and North Fort Precinct positions it as a crucial bridge uniting these distinct areas, fostering a coherent and cohesive sense of place.

Moving on to the North Fort Precinct, it houses the most intact 9.2-inch coastal batteries in NSW. It retains the perimeter walling, gun battery, most of the functional support buildings and remnants of the communications network and draining system directly associated with the Second World War era. IN collaboration with the Australian Ware Memorial, we’re introducing the ‘Defence of the Nation’ interpretative space. This immersive journey continues through the nearby Gun Emplacement and Memorial Walkway Loop, featuring an interconnected tunnel network. The goal in this precinct is to showcase the rich military history of the region. The vantage point from this position will look towards the harbour, allowing visitors to appreciate the surrounding landscape while reflecting on the defence of Sydney stories.

Visit the DCEEW hub to view the draft master plan in full as well as a summary document.


Macquarie University Master Plan

Macquarie Park, Sydney