Category Archives: Urban ecosystems

Pool to Pond – converting backyard swimming pools to ponds for biodiversity

Key words: urban wildlife, backyard habitats, environmental education, fish conservation

Peter Clarke

Since 2007 Ku-ring-gai Council in northern Sydney, NSW, has assisted residents in converting their unwanted swimming pools into ponds. The Pool to Pond program has assisted over 40 households with the conversion by supplying technical advice, native fish and native aquatic plants.   The residents often use exotic aquatic plants alongside the native plants provided by Council and, although natives are preferred, the exotics nevertheless provide useful habitat.

Fig 1 Pool converted to pond, Shirley Rd Roseville

Converting a swimming pool into a pond is an eco-friendly and cost effective alternative to ongoing maintenance or removing a pool altogether. Once converted, the ponds become local biodiversity hot spots, attracting a wide range of wildlife including birds, ducks and frogs.  The water quality of ponds is well within Australian recreational standards and is far above the quality found in Ku-ring-gai streams (Ian Wright, University of Western Sydney, 2010, pers. comm.).

Many people interested in the idea were concerned about mosquitoes.  Fortunately this is not a problem because, out of the approximately 60 mosquito species that live in the Sydney area, only three or four are considered pests.  These pest species prefer shallow, ephemeral water and dislike living in depths greater than 30cm.

Pool converted to pond, Gordon NSW

The motivation for the over 40 or so pools converted to date are many and varied.  Advantages to householders are reported to include the following.

  1. The conversion is reversible.
  2. The ponds can still be used for refreshing ‘dips’ and provide a peaceful reflective place
  3. A considerable reduction of the household energy bill is achieved by not running the pool pump and filter. (Saving up to $1,000 and avoiding release of approximately 400 tons of greenhouse gases.)
  4. A pond will also enhance household sustainability by no longer requiring the use of toxic chemicals. It also provides water for garden irrigation, car washing etc.
  5. Maintaining a pond is not labour or capital intensive.
  6. Ponds are a very useful educational resource; for example children can use dip nets to collect a wide range of aquatic wildlife.
  7. Pool to Pond allows people to become custodians of a species of threatened native fish in their pond.  (Species such as Rainbow fish and Gudgeons from genetically significant populations have been used in this initiative and have proven to be extremely fecund.)

Contact: Peter Clarke, Community Volunteer Programs Coordinator, Ku-ring-gai Council, Tel: +61 2 94240 811, Mobile: 0418 277099, Email:

Tweed-Byron Bush Futures Project – Management of significant urban bushland

Key words: bushland restoration, community engagement, council, landcare, costing

John Turnbull , Byron Shire

Two north-east NSW local government areas – Byron Shire and Tweed Shire – are collaborating in a Project that focuses on the management planning and restoration of 985 ha of urban bushland within both shires; i.e. the public lands that fall within about 2kms of urban areas.  These lands have been subjected to threats including land clearing, fragmentation, weed invasion, domestic and feral animal incursions, waste dumping and altered hydrology.  The Project involves more than 10 vegetation communities including seven Endangered Ecological Communities, two ecosystems covered by State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs) and habitat for a wide range of threatened flora and fauna species.

Figure 1 Tweed Byron Bush Futures Project Study Area

Early in the Project a rapid assessment methodology was developed to determine bushland health based on key ecological attributes. The field data sheet used in the audit is now used by restoration contractors for monitoring and evaluation of on-ground works. The audit also determined prioritisation of sites for on-ground work and provided a cost estimates for ten bushland restoration classes.

Figure 2: Site signage put up at all work sites

Extensive on-ground restoration works include weed control (employing best practice bush regeneration methods) and habitat restoration, rubbish removal and recycling, nest box installation, feral animal control and installation of interpretive signage. In addition community and Council engagement programs, education events and workshops are being delivered and educational resources developed including a public land volunteers manual.

One of the Project goals is to generate institutional change and reinforce the role that Council has in managing natural areas, particularly those areas directly under its control It is hoped that this may lead to allocation of an ongoing core budget for NRM.

Results to date: 23 Site Action Plans (SAPs) have been prepared encompassing 43 worksites and 145 hectares of urban bushland. Primary bush regeneration work is underway at 52 sites covering 225 hectares resulting in a significant reduction in weed density and severity. Thirty nest boxes have been installed and monitoring to date has recorded Sugar Gliders (Petaurus breviceps) and Long-eared Bats (Nyctophilus sp.) in treated sites. Ten Landcare workshops have been delivered and six fact sheets prepared on biodiversity management issues.

Figure 3: Sugar gliders using nest box installed as part of the project

Lessons learned and future directions: The monitoring and evaluation process within the SAP guidelines will allow for determination of each project’s effectiveness, as well as effectiveness of the overall program.  SAPs, restoration costing and our rapid assessment bushland health methodology will all inform future bushland management decisions, while our volunteers manual will provide ongoing support for bushland ‘care’ groups.

Stakeholders and funding bodies: The main funding is from the NSW Environmental Trust Urban Sustainability Grants Program; with in-kind contributions from the Council’s involved. Stakeholders include Brunswick Valley and Tweed Landcare Incs, NRCMA, local land management agencies, Council staff and environmental groups.

Contact information: John Turnbull, Bush Futures Project Manager, Tweed Shire Council, PO Box 816 Murwillumbah NSW 2484 (02)66702732