My project explores how the restoration of natural systems can build social, environmental and ecological resilience to create a mindful awareness of the processes of food production, consumption and waste. While plastic waste has started to gain awareness, food is an essential resource to our survival, yet we throw it away carelessly with no respect for the resource, leading to 80% of food waste ending up in landfill. With consideration of Newcastle as a site, I chose to explore Newcastle Harbour, as our greatest resource for the integration of a new system.
Newcastle harbour and its surrounding islands were once a fertile, biodiverse and complete estuarine system, but as Newcastle was settled and land divided, salt marsh and mudflats were reclaimed and the system became imbalanced. Industrialisation and careless waste disposal led to the destruction of the estuary parts and major water contamination, with heavy metals still present in the system today. To make the project viable I needed to consider the repair of the existing system, before introducing a new one.
I propose to develop a masterplan to repair the Harbour and re-connect the city to the water using a series of strategies. Selecting key points along the continuous harbour walk for spatial expansion, creating amphibious fluctuating zones to re-connect the city to the water. Overhangs and bridges will provide fish corridors to improve movement and spawning cycles. Re-naturalising edges to encourage ecologies to take hold and strategically implanting ecologies where they are best suited to uptake specific polluting matter, as sacrificial organisms to cleanse the system over time. Two sites have been selected as key thresholds to the harbour for a more detailed intervention and testing ground for a closed loop system within the masterplan.
The first site at the mouth of Cottage Creek will re-establish the estuarine system, which was historically removed. This strategy places the environment and ecologies over the continual large scale privitised development of the Honeysuckle area, creating a truly unique first impression of Newcastle, with the site as a major arrival point into the city. The mouth of Cottage creek will be re-opened and naturalized with filtering sea grasses, muflats, mangroves and salt marsh, creating a rich biodiverse ecosystem that will mature over time. The Wickham School of Arts Hall and new gateway architectures will establish a public square and pockets of public space surrounding the site will link people to the restored estuary.
An integrated multi-trophic aquaculture system will be introduced to establish future food infrastructure. This is the most sustainable form of agriculture in the world and uses algae, filter feeders (such as mussels and oysters) and fish to form a closed loop system that cleanses the water, creates new marine habitats and produces food. Above the surface the finger wharfs along the coastal edge provide an opportunity for the public to overview and acknowledge the system. As the project continues to develop through its stages, the water will be purified and marine populations will grow. Once safe for consumption the aquaculture can be harvested and processed, the seasonal foods will be featured in the adjoining restaurant. The restaurant acting as the link between production and consumption, orientating the consumer to overlook the process of production that has created their meal.
The second site is located at Carrington Mangrove, where Throsby Creek meets Newcastle Harbour. I propose to form a recycled shell reef alongside the existing mangrove. Shell reefs were once a feature of estuaries and are now one of the most critically endangered marine habitats. Initial stages will stockpile recycled oyster and mussel shells from local restaurants, as well as the restaurant located at site one. A simple modular rack system provides a washing and curing station along the pedestrian walk for passive observation. This part of project aims to repair the cycle of the oyster, which we break by consuming it, instead the waste can be reused to not only form critical habitat for fish spawning and micro-organisms, but will also contribute to the goal of the masterplan in filtering the contamination within the harbour.
Oyster shells after washing and curing offer the same amazing ability to filter the water as live oysters do. Collecting shells from local restaurants will engage the community in the project and their collection from site one acts as the final step in linking food production, consumption and waste. Developing slowly overtime the reef will reach a maximum size, then new sites can be selected for the implementation of new reefs.
The project timeline proposes my project as an extension of the recent remediation projects within the area, including the Hunter Wetlands and Throsby Creek, as a viable next step in cleaning and making safe our waterways, with an ultimate goal of making the entire Harbour safe to eat from in 2100. The project utilizes a new regenerative aquaculture system to create food security for the future, while also restoring natural ecological systems to improve biodiversity, strengthen fish populations and create ecological resilience. The two sites aim to build social resilience to make people understand the value of our food resources, and create a mindful awareness of the processes that link the production of food, with its conscious consumption and thoughtful waste reuse.