The community’s decades-long battle pays off with plan to restore Moonee Ponds’ “concrete creek”

Eileen Treasure calls Moonee Ponds Creek in northwest Melbourne a “giant gutter” these days, but when she was growing up, it was a different story.

“We had worms, rabbits around, and it was a natural playground, and it was safe,” she said.

She lived right on the bank in Oak Park, and she remembers her father dragging rocks into the creek so they could cross it to collect mushrooms on the other side.

“Down the bottom, before where I’m standing now, there was a good swimming hole, not really deep, that wasn’t over your head,” she said.

Elaine Tregear grew up on the bank of Moonee Ponds Creek in Oak Park, northwest of Melbourne.(

Supplied: Eileen Trigger

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Every year, she said, the table would drench a chuck pen, and go straight up to her back door.

This prompted authorities to pour concrete along the creek, from Oak Park and Strathmore, through the inner-city suburbs of Brunswick and Flemington, to where the creek meets the bay—more than eight kilometers of concrete.

Expect a “magical” return to wildlife

Concrete-lined table and shopping cart half-submerged in it
Moonee Ponds Creek was lined with concrete to prevent flooding in the 1960s.(

ABC News: Margaret Pole

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It took decades of societal pressure, but the Victorian government has now approved a $7 million plan that will see the first 500m of concrete excavated, in the spot Elaine used to live, and the restoration of Moonee Ponds Creek.

The plan includes removing nearly 700 tons of concrete, planting native plants, installing six boulders, seating, and separate bike and walking paths.

Work is scheduled to begin in early 2022.

Anna Lanigan moved to the area in the 1980s and has been campaigning to restore the creek ever since.

“I never thought I’d live to see it,” she said.

She said people can see what the benefits are, by just looking upstream, beyond the tangible, and bypassing what she called the “Great Divide.”

“Beyond that piece of concrete, I find Australian reed-birds, we get fairy-birds, and we have sacred hunters,” she said.

Purple-haired woman standing next to white-haired woman and smiling.
Anna Lanigan and Nina Franceschi have been campaigning for the creek for decades (

ABC News: Margaret Pole

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She said the plan to restore this part of the creek will accommodate the local population, as well as wildlife.

“When we restore habitat for our young birds, this will be the mark of our success,” she said.

Her friend and neighbor, Nina Franceschi, has also been pushing to have concrete removed for nearly 30 years, and she said she almost gave up.

A small waterfall in a concrete stream.
Beyond this waterfall, the concrete stations and Moonee Ponds creek are home to more wildlife(

ABC News: Margaret Pole

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Creek part of the “Ponds Chain”

Locals hope this is the start of a longer view of the Moonee Ponds creek, through the so-called Chain Pond Collaboration, which connects local councils, water authorities and user groups along the watershed.

Part of the brief for this section is to make it repeatable, so everyone can get the most out of the creek, said Rachel Lopez, lead of the Bonds series collaboration.

A woman with a blue headband in front of a stream.
Rachel Lopez hopes the project will be repeated along the creek.(

ABC News: Margaret Pole

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“I think people are turning towards it and appreciating it as a stream and a river and a beautiful place,” she said.

“People love to go side by side with their schedule, so spending money now in these urban areas is really important and we hope it continues.”

Danny Pearson, MP for Essendon, said the state government would consider funding to restore the rest of the creek.

He described the restoration of the first section as a benefit to the community,

“Not only will we transform a section of Moonee Ponds Creek from a concrete canal into an attractive inland waterway for the city, we will improve biodiversity and water quality,” he said.

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