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Waverton Coal Loader

Design guidance for the social and economic context

Project proponents: North Sydney Council

Location: Near Balls Head Reserve on Sydney Harbour. North Sydney local government area / Cammeraygal Country

Coastal management area(s): Coastal environment area and coastal use area

The Waverton Coal Loader was used for coal bunkering (ship refuelling) from 1919 until it was taken out of service in 1964. It was recommissioned and used as a coal export facility from 1974 until its closure in 1992. 

The Waverton Coal Loader project transformed the one-hectare coal loader platform, tunnels, nearby related historic buildings, and surrounding former industrial land into a public harbourside park. It has a strong focus on sustainability.

Coastal Design Guidelines application

This case study shows how you can apply chapter 4.4 'Design guidance for the social and economic context' from the NSW Coastal Design Guidelines 2023 (PDF, 9.2 MB).


Objective 4.4.1: Encourage sustainable, productive use of the natural coastal environment

Through adaptive reuse of the historic coal bunker and tunnels, this project has made a variety of new uses possible, including open public space and a sustainability centre. The council has restored a wetland that had formed in a former oil storage tank. Its role in water filtration is featured in the sustainability centre’s educational materials.

Objective 4.4.2: Ensure coastal infrastructure delivers civic space and community access

The project has provided for the local community by using former site buildings as a visitor kiosk, community centre and training rooms. Repurposed tunnels also provide an educational and tourism opportunity based on the site’s industrial history. 

The council has transformed open space above the tunnels into a park with expansive harbour views that the public can now enjoy. The project has installed vegetable garden plots and made them available for local community use as many people in the area live in apartments and don’t have access to a garden.

Objective 4.4.3: Acknowledge and protect coastal Aboriginal peoples’ spiritual, social, cultural, customary and economic connection to coastal Country

There are several culturally significant Aboriginal places on the Coal Loader site, including rock carvings, shell middens, caves, and other places of archaeological and cultural importance. 

The Coal Loader redevelopment sensitively restored the area around the rock carvings by removing the existing roadway and fence, using more natural barriers around the carving, and creating a floating timber platform to view the carving and interpretive signage.