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Slag, steel and swamp: Perceptions of restoration of an urban coastal saltmarsh


  • Nicholas Gill

  • Nicholas Gillis a geographer and lecturer with the GeoQueST Research Centre (School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia. Tel. +61-2 4221 4165. Email: In conjunction with Conservation Volunteers Australia and Friends of Tom Thumb Lagoon, Nicholas was responsible for coordinating the student project reported in this paper. The project provided opportunities for students to interact with restoration practitioners and to reflect on the opportunities and constraints inherent in participatory environmental management.

  • Box 1. Main players in the restoration project

    The initial restoration work was undertaken by Wollongong City Council (WCC), the Water Board, and neighbouring industry. Since then, much of the impetus for restoration work has come from Friends of Tom Thumb Lagoon (FTTL) who have been supported by WCC's Bushcare program and Natural Heritage Trust and other funding. In 1998, Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) became involved in work at TTL. Today, with support from BHP Billiton and also from the Southern Rivers Catchment Management Authority, TTL is one of 10 restoration projects in CVA's national ‘Revive Our Wetlands’ program (Conservation Volunteers Australia, cited 1 December 2004). More recently, Bluescope Steel has also begun to include TTL as a key part of its weekly environmental workshops for staff. Since the student work described here, there has been a partnership between the University's Centre for Student Development and CVA in which students have worked on CVA projects in the region.


A community group, in conjunction with local government and industry, has been working on aquatic and terrestrial restoration at a Wollongong saltmarsh, previously diminished in size and degraded by harbour reclamation and an urban rubbish tip. Students evaluate restoration progress to date and devise some interesting potential directions.