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T.C.L comment: Unlocking the potential of Brisbane’s creek catchments

Deb Robbins, T.C.L Brisbane Studio principal, shares her vision for a series of catchment ‘corridors’ to unify the city.

T.C.L comment: Unlocking the potential of Brisbane’s creek catchments

Auckland Waterfront Silo Park, landscape architecture and urban design by T.C.L, photography by Jonny Davis.

This comment piece was written by Deb Robbins.

Brisbane’s waterways could be the key to new and innovative ways to encourage locals and visitors to better engage with the city’s subtropical beauty. In fact, this type of important work has already begun. The Brisbane River serves as a compelling prototype of sorts — illuminating how natural bodies of water can be used as connecting devices. Over the past 20 years, the ‘river resurgence’ has positively impacted how people live, work and commute.

We now enjoy daily interactions with the river — riverside walking, cycling and running have become popular pastimes. Meanwhile, Brisbane’s bridges work well to connect northern and southern commuters with the city’s beating heart.

Deb Robbins, photograh by Alanna Jayne McTiernan.

But more can be done…

Other parts of Brisbane’s waterways are yet to be leveraged to full effect. Many locals might be unaware the city actually comprises close to 40 major creek catchments that may well be Brisbane’s quiet achievers.

We have a wonderful untapped resource within our creek catchments’ system. Due to their locations and innate beauty, creek catchments have the potential to become powerful connectors — that draw people down to our waterways and up to surrounding amenities.

I’d love to see our city adopt a series of ‘catchment corridors’ (consisting of boardwalks and permeable pavements) that entice people to engage with their local waterways via ‘greener’ commutes to nearby workplaces, schools and local communities.

Related: UQ Student Central by Hassell

Adelaide Botanic Gardens Wetland, photograph by John Gollings.

Could a series of catchment corridors transform the ‘river city’?

Restoring, connecting and activating Brisbane’s catchment system has myriad benefits, wellbeing is chief among them. We have ample evidence to support the belief that our wellbeing improves when we engage with nature. These catchment corridors could give people a vital ‘green hit’, as they walk along the water’s edge, observe the local wildlife and take in some gentle exercise.

Regenerative steps, like increased planting around catchment sites, can also spark increased habitat movement through urban areas. This movement enriches biodiversity in a way that benefits local wildlife. Think possums, wallabies, koalas and birds making use of a much broader patch for feeding and mating. Working with Country, and drawing upon the insights of First Nations people, is also essential to ensuring regeneration is done in such a way that complements Brisbane’s local ecology.

These catchment corridors also have the potential to generate employment opportunities. New cafes and/or other small hospitality businesses could capitalise on the influx of people embracing creeks’ edges — providing a welcome retreat/refreshment at the end of sojourns along the water. 

Additionally, maintenance of catchment corridors could bolster local employment. To supplement voluntary community catchment groups, a cohort of Creek Rangers could be established to help maintain the sites. We need more well-trained land carers in the urban realm.  

Auckland Waterfront Silo Park, photography by Simon Devitt.

Pilot program

Realising a concept like catchment corridors could be years, possibly decades, in the making.  Suffice to say, such big and bold ideas require a pilot program. Locations near Olympic Games’ precincts could be the ideal starting point. Some are already underway and I really hope more will follow.

Imagine having catchment corridors to give people an alternative commute to events — one that gets them out into nature and walking along waterways that deliver them to the base of a major Olympic precinct!



QUT Pedestrian Spine, photograph by Alanna Jayne McTiernan.
Adelaide Botanic Gardens Wetland, photograph by John Gollings.

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