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"Our river"? Diversity, values, and community engagement in planning for Dyarubbin, Penrith

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posted on 2022-11-08, 03:46 authored by Elise Frost

Urban waterscapes are valued in diverse ways by different individuals and communities. Despite this diversity, governments continue to primarily reduce these values to recreation and tourism. This is especially contentious in settler colonial states such as Australia, where Indigenous water values are often marginalised in formal planning processes. My research has examined the diverse values and meanings that exist within an area of Dyarubbin (the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment) known as the Bridge-to-Bridge Precinct, in Penrith, New South Wales, and how these values have or have not been incorporated into recent urban planning processes. Using a combined water justice and urban political ecology framework with a focus on power relations between and among community members and planning authorities, I have found that current community engagement processes in urban planning have inherent limitations in their ability to incorporate Indigenous values and diverse conceptions of the river, despite the best efforts of local government. This is due to hierarchical power relations that tend to exclude community members who are not part of organised community groups from collaborating with governments, and which do not align with unceded Indigenous sovereignty. Data used in the research was collected through semi-structured interviews, an online questionnaire and planning documents related to the ‘Our River’ project. This data was collated and analysed using thematic coding. The emergent themes from this analysis include identification of key values employed in the planning process, the role of scale in mediating these processes, and public responses to these values. The way values were constructed in the process of planning and executing urban planning in this case shows that a particular kind of placemaking continues to be foregrounded, based on creating a recreational and tourist destination at the river, that frequently marginalises Indigenous water values.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction -- Chapter 2: Contextualising planning for Dyarubbin -- Chapter 3: Thinking with and planning for rivers -- Chapter 4: Methodological approach: documenting Dyarubbin -- Chapter 5: Recognition of Indigenous water values -- Chapter 6: Diverse river values in community engagement -- Chapter 7: Scalar issues relating to urban and water planning in the Precinct -- Chapter 8: Conclusion -- References -- Appendix 1: Questionnaire -- Appendix 2: Interview schedule


A thesis presented to Macquarie University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Research

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Thesis MRes, Macquarie University, Department of Geography and Planning, 2022

Department, Centre or School

Department of Geography and Planning

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Miriam Williams

Additional Supervisor 1

Jess McLean


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




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