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Radio Round Up August 22 - Barangaroo

The moment Sydney has been waiting for has finally arrived. The gates of the Barangaroo Reserve open today, and we talked on air this morning to some of the key people whose efforts have made this landmark both possible and public.

Today it was a privilege to  speak to the landscape architect, Peter Walker; the horticultural consultant, my dear friend Stuart Pittendrigh; the nurseryman, Leigh Brennen and the CEO of the Barangaroo Development Authority, Craig van der Laan.

A momentous show on a significant day in the history of Sydney. Here’s what we talked about.


BEFORE - Barangaroo as a working shipping terminal. Photo –

AFTER - Barangaroo Reserve. Photo –


The Horticulturist: Stuart Pittendrigh

We chatted with my friend, horticultural consultant Mr Stuart Pittendrigh about his role in the Barangaroo project. He talked about the great surprise it was to be selected to work on such a landmark project, and the huge privilege it has been to work with world renowned Landscape Architect, Peter Walker.

Stuart worked with Simon Leake, from SESL soil lab, to develop soil for the site, which included crushed glass. The silica the glass adds to the soil makes it a perfect growing medium for the site.

All the plants on site native to the Sydney basin. There are 84 different species on site, all tolerant of salt air on foliage, high winds and high atmospheric conditions you get on Sydney Harbour. And you’ll see today that all the plants are in prime health. It took two-and-a-half years of planting to get all of the trees into the landscape, and about four years growing them at the Mangrove Mountain nursery.

The planting of such advanced trees was definitely the most challenging thing for the horticulturists on the project. The trees were unusually large size for planting. The project brief demanded instant impact, meaning mature trees, and this meant a very long growing program to get the plants to the large size needed.

“We never ever thought we’d have a landscape on this site. It’s a significant site. Now we have several landscapes on the harbour foreshore, and their all linked together.”

You can read more about Stuart’s role in the project on our website


The Nursery Manager: Leigh Brennen

Leigh Brennen is one of the production team, and Nursery Manager at Andreasens Green. He has spent the best part of 4 years raising and caring for the trees planted at the Barangaroo Reserve. Leigh worked closely with Stuart Pittendrigh to select, grow and later plant the trees at Barangaroo and we spoke to him live on air this morning. Today is the culmination of 4 years work for Leigh. Unsurprisingly, it was a lot of hard work, but very exciting to be involved in such an iconic project, and to have worked with such experienced, professional people.

Leigh explained that Andreasens Green has 6 acres which they dedicate to the Barangaroo project, one of the reasons they were brought into the team. The site, up in Mangrove Mountain on the central coast is quite similar to the Barangaroo site in that it is subject to lots of sun and very strong winds at times. They grew the plants quite naturally, not uniform like in the nursery. The idea is that Barangaroo should look like a walk in the bush.

This meant growing trees naturally, but also root pruning eucalyptus trees- a practice that most of us would be surprised by, but Leigh says its turning into a standard practice to insure the structural integrity of tree. Because the tree roots grow laterally the roots must be pruned at every pot-up stage to prevent them girdling around the edge of the pot. "Because we're growing a tree in a container, which its not used to, it just has to be done", Leigh said.


The Landscape Architect: Peter Walker

Another pivotal member of the landscape team, landscape architect Peter Walker. Some of Peter’s previous work include the September 11 Memorial Garden in New York. Peter Walker has designed a world class iconic landscape inspired by the original Harbour headland that existed before it became a concrete slab, and we spoke to him this morning. It’s our front door to the world and has been 5 years coming. Peter said he is really looking forward to seeing so many people interact with the site. This is the first time people can go down to the water from millers point, where Barangaroo sits, and the first time you can walk from circular quay all the way around to Darling Harbour via the foreshore.

“Its unique. This is something completely different to 9-11, or any other landscape. It’s an Australian expression. A monumental landscape.” Barangaroo Reserve on the end of Miller’s point, one of 5 headlands with Goat Island sitting at the center. Miller’s point was the only natural headland missing, but now it’s back.

As part of the design process Peter went around to look at the stone at the base of headlands around the harbour, known as the ‘curtain’. His observations inspired his designs. Unlike other waterfront landscapes that are vertically interfaced with the water, Barangaroo Reserve is horizontal, meaning fish moved in right away. The habitat is very quickly growing, both in and out of the water, peter told us. He credited this in part to Simon Leake, soil scientist from SESL, who made the soil right from the site. 5 years from now it will again be transformed by the natural fauna who will continue to move back in.

The bays are one of the most wonderful features of the Barangaroo Reserve. Peter told us that they are there to give articulation and plan to the headland, and to return access to the water from Hickson road. All along Hickson road you couldn’t see the water. But now for the first time you can see the bay from the road, and easily access the walkway leading to the headland reserve. 


The CEO: Craig van der Laan

Craig is the CEO of the Barangaroo Development Authority, the big boss, and the MC at the opening ceremony this morning. No surprise, Craig is very proud of what they have achieved, especially with such a large team. The reserve is a credit to the myriad people who contributed.

Craig told us about the space underneath the site, at “the Cutaway”, which will be used for cultural purposes. You can see the construction process for this space at the Barangaroo Development Authority website.

Craig is delighted to have been part of the project. “It’s a passionate gardener’s job of a lifetime”, he said. Most notably to have achieved the striking results with planting advanced trees, some of them 15 meters tall. Craig looks forward to what these plantings will evolve into over the next few years.

Craig also recognised the contribution of others very early in the project. He told us that Paul Keating, named in the Sydney Morning Herald as the “Lord of Barangaroo”, was instrumental in the initial vision, and that the Development Authority greatly valued his input.


Gates open early this morning with plenty of activities such as yoga, walks, history talk, and official opening. Looking forward to watching the news tonight! I promise its back to a 'normal' show tomorrow!