The Porronggitj Karrong project, situated in Breakwater, Geelong, Victoria, spans across 66 hectares of Barwon River floodplain and is dedicated to establishing a new cultural, recreational, and community precinct.

Developed in partnership with the Wadawurrung Traditional Owner Aboriginal Corporation (Wadawurrung), the project aims to honour both Aboriginal culture and heritage, as well as the European heritage values embodied by the heritage-listed Ovoid Sewer Aqueduct, constructed between 1912 and 1915. SMEC plays a crucial role in preserving this unique precinct and facilitating dialogue around its conservation and sustainable development.


The aqueduct, originally built to carry Geelong’s outfall sewer across the Barwon River, was decommissioned in 1995 due to safety concerns related to falling concrete. In 2020, Heritage Victoria granted Barwon Water a permit to remove four out of the fourteen spans, with the condition that the remaining spans would be protected and conserved. This marked the beginning of the rehabilitation process for the 66 hectares of public open space surrounding the Aqueduct. The site is currently a large undeveloped floodplain area containing the Geelong Ovoid Sewer Aqueduct, which consists of extensive areas of native vegetation, mostly Lignum Swamp. The area’s native vegetation has recolonised following the exclusion of cattle grazing at the study site in 2001.


The project is part of the First Nations – Culture & Heritage Priority Project, focused on fostering cultural tourism experiences within the greater Geelong region. One of the project’s aims is to reopen a stretch of the river by 2025, enabling public access. If successful, this initiative would signify the first time since the early 1990s that the entire length of the river would be accessible to the public, offering an opportunity for cultural exploration and appreciation.


Since the project’s inception in 2018, SMEC has been actively involved in various aspects, including conducting detailed ecological assessments, ongoing ecological monitoring, statutory planning, environmental approvals, and contaminated land assessments. Collaborating closely with Wadawurrung and Barwon Water, SMEC is currently facilitating the implementation of Traditional Custodian land management practices and the development of a Healthy Country Plan. Working alongside the Wadawurrung Gobata Dja (Healthy Country) team, our SMEC team on site recorded the first-ever Tawny Grassbird identified in the Barwon region. Additionally, we identified nesting pairs of four different raptor species on the site and successfully completed our second year of quarterly native vegetation monitoring.