Ballast Point

The cylindrical skeleton of a former giant oil tank stands sentinel at the newly opened Ballast Point Park in Sydney’s inner west Balmain. Encrypted into the metal through punctured holes are the words of poet Les Murray: Stone statues of ancient waves, tongue like dingoes on shore.

It’s an artistic finial to a harbourside park with more creative feeling than most, designed by landscape architects McGregor Coxall.

But it comes after a lengthy and bitterly fought battle by residents to stop development on the site and an equally bitter battle by Lang Walker’s Walker Corporation for compensation after he bought an option to develop the site.

And the compensation matter is still not resolved.

In 2004 it was set at $43.4 million but was subsequently challenged in the High Court which sent the matter back to the NSW Land and Environment Court for reconsideration.

Walker Corporation declined to comment on the issue.

Today, you can picnic on the spot blissfully unaware of its tough and complex history.

There are water ponds designed to attract local birds and frogs as well to cleanse all the site water before it enters the harbour.

There are sculpted gabion walls, filled with concrete, brick and crushed building material, but on closer inspection containing old china door handle, or a shell as well. Someone has been having fun.

McGregor Coxall also went out of their way with the landscaping, collecting enough local seeds to grow 34,000 plants.

Part of the skeletal frame also contains a kind of antidote to the site’s contaminated past and connection with fossil fuels – eight active energy producing wind turbines.

Transformation of the site started after the state government bought the land in 2002, announcing it would become a public headland park.

It was then placed in the hands of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, which in 2004 commissioned landscape architects Context, Anton James Design and CAB Consulting to develop a masterplan in consultation with local community groups.

In 2006, McGregor Coxall and its consultant team were awarded the design contract for design development, documentation and site supervision for the park.

“The design philosophy was to acknowledge the site’s past history while providing a park for the future,” the design team said in its media statement accompanying the park’s most recent incarnation.

Client: Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority
Design: McGregor Coxall
Construction: Landscape Solutions
Budget: $10,000,000

tperinotto@thefifthestate.com.au