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HomeNewsWar Memorial Park at Manly Dam now Heritage-listed

War Memorial Park at Manly Dam now Heritage-listed

The Manly Warringah War Memorial Park, popularly known as Manly Dam, is at long last NSW Heritage listed, James Griffin MP and Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan announced on Friday 13 January.

This gives the forested region and reservoir at its heart new levels of legal protection and preservation. The public announcement took place beside the war memorials at the historic dam.

The 375 hectare estate, encompassing the Manly Dam reservoir, the cenotaph and memorial statues on the southern tip, and the surrounding bushland reserve, is now comprehensively listed by the NSW Government on the State Heritage Register.

The NSW-wide register includes historically and culturally significant items ranging from artworks, objects and relics to shipwrecks, bridges, buildings, monuments, conservation precincts, archaeological digs, Indigenous camping and ritual sites and Aboriginal engravings and stencils.

The lakeside ceremony near the 130-years-old dam wall was launched by Allan Murray, Chair of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC), who acknowledged the traditional custodians of the region.

Kayaking Manly Dam. Photo: Alec Smart

Bushland treasure

NSW Minister for Environment and Heritage, and Manly MP James Griffin, who oversaw the park’s heritage listing, declared “The Manly Warringah War Memorial Park is a bushland treasure that so many people from the Northern Beaches and all around Sydney love as a place to spend time in nature with family and friends.”

The native forests, popular with bushwalkers and off-road cyclists, are interwoven by walking tracks and mountain bicycle trails.

The reservoir, which has a sectioned-off area at the northern end for water skiing (accessible via boat ramps) and a dedicated area for swimming and non-motorised water craft at the southern end, is fresh water fed by Manly Creek (formerly known as Curl Curl Creek). There is also a fenced-off children’s play area.

Mr Griffin continued, “The bush here is rich in biodiversity, providing an important urban refuge for more than 300 native plant species, as well as rare and endangered animals like the Powerful Owl and Eastern Pygmy Possum.

“The Park has a long history of use by the Gayamaygal people, with evidence of engraving sites, and the bushland vegetation provided bush tucker and material for a huge range of tools like rope, fishing nets, medicine, shields and canoes.

“This heritage listing will help protect this treasured area and its stories for generations of Sydneysiders to continue enjoying into the future.”

Manly Dam wall. Photo: Alec Smart

Dam history

The whole reserve now joins the 1892-constructed Manly Dam, built by NSW Public Works, on the list of historic properties and items administered by Heritage Council of NSW and protected by state legislation.

The 2,000 megalitre reservoir, concrete wall, sluice gates, steel walkway and hydraulics system were previously given NSW Heritage protection on 18 November 1999. But because the dam walls were just outside the official boundary of the reserve (which was established as a war memorial park after World War 1 and managed by ex-service personnel), they remained the responsibility of Sydney Water.

Manly Dam is a ‘gravity dam’, like Warragamba Dam, Sydney’s primary reservoir for drinkable water (although construction of the latter began 53 years later), which is ten times larger at 2065 gigalitres.

According to Science Direct, a gravity dam “is a structure designed to withstand loads by its own weight and by its resistance to sliding and overturning on its foundation.”

Manly Dam is the third concrete-built gravity dam in history, after Boyds Corner Dam in New York, USA (completed 1872) and Lower Crystal Springs Dam in California, USA (completed 1890).

The Manly Warringah War Memorial Park features two memorials dedicated to those who gave their lives serving Australia in the Armed Forces and related civil support services.

The War Memorials Register describes them as: “The first is an unconventional, contemporary design with two standing columns and one column lying on the ground and a sphere on a low plinth near the water.

“South east of this is a polished grey granite plaque set upon two unpolished lighter coloured granite steps with an accompanying flagpole. Beneath the plaque, set into the top step, are the Navy, Army and Air Force emblems.”

Manly Dam sluice gates releasing water. Photo: Alec Smart

Mayor Regan thanks campaigners

Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan, who spoke at the ceremony, described the great honour for the Manly Warringah War Memorial Park to gain NSW Heritage recognition. He revealed he’d personally been involved in the campaign for a considerable time – since his period in office as Mayor of the now-amalgamated Warringah Council (2008-16).

Mr Regan also thanked local community groups and singled out Ann Collins and Malcolm Fisher of Save Manly Dam Catchment Committee – both present at the event – and the late Ray Cox, for their tireless work in campaigning to give the region heritage protection, despite years of legal hurdles.

NSW Heritage Minister James Griffin (centre) at Manly Dam, with members of Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, Northern Beaches Mayor Michael Regan, and Save Manly Dam campaigners. Photo: Alec Smart

“Rich in natural biodiversity and shaped by engineering and science, the dam was once a source of drinking water in Sydney’s north,” Mr Regan added.

“It remains a special place for veterans, a site rich in Aboriginal cultural significance, a picturesque recreational area and a popular spot for local families.”

Manly Dam overview


NSW Heritage


Manly Dam Biodiversity Project


Save Manly Dam Facebook page



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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

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