About the program
The $200 million Urban Rivers and Catchments Program is restoring the health of our urban waterways for native plants, animals, and local communities.
Nearly half of all nationally listed threatened animals and a quarter of threatened plants occur in urban areas. They share these areas with 96% of Australia’s population.
Projects funded will help conserve native plants and animals such as birds, platypus and native fish. They will also improve access to waterways which provide for health and social wellbeing.
As part of our Nature Positive agenda, the program aims to leave our environment in a better state and build resilience in a warming climate.
The program will support projects that improve waterways in urban, outer-urban/peri-urban and regional centres areas by:
- restoring and/or improving river areas, stream banks or aquatic habitats
- improving water quality, water in the landscape, and waterway connectivity
- improving urban green and blue space, water quality, and community access to nature.
This will benefit native species, threatened species, and aquatic areas of significance. It will also benefit public health and help reduce urban heat-related impacts due to climate change.
The program will fund projects including, but not limited to:
- habitat and habitat ‘corridor’ establishment for native wildlife
- riverbank revegetation, stream re-naturalisation, and chain of ponds/wetland creation initiatives
- water quality improvement to benefit aquatic species
- wetland creation to slow, filter and remove stormwater from aquatic systems
- re-establishment of ‘pathways’ to support movements and migrations of aquatic native species through installation of fish ‘ladders’ and 'passage ways'
- prevention of stormwater-sourced plastic entering aquatic and marine environments through installation of litter and gross pollutant traps.
The investment will help Australia to meet its obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity and other international treaties.
The Urban Rivers and Catchments Program comprises 2 rounds.
Round one projects will be delivered through specific purpose payments to the states and territories.
Round two projects will be competitive grants, contracted with successful grant recipients.
The 2022–23 October Budget provided $91 million (from 2022–23) for the first round of the program. This round is implementing projects that were announced in the lead up to the May 2022 election.
Details of projects contracted through Commonwealth to state and territory funding arrangements.
The May 2023-24 Budget provided funding through the Natural Heritage Trust for a competitive grants round under the Urban Rivers and Catchments Program.
$109 million (from 2024-25) is available for project grants under the opportunity. It is expected this will fund around 100 projects that bring life back to our rivers, creeks, wetlands, and waterways in urban, outer urban and regional centres.
There are two distinct grant opportunities:
- Stream one - small to medium-sized project grants of between $150,000 to $2 million for community-led projects. A total of $51 million is available under this stream.
- Stream two - large scale project grants of between $2 million to $10 million for projects that include co-investment. A total of $58 million is available under this stream.
Urban rivers and Catchments Program 2023 Grant Round (round two)
Applications are now OPEN and will close on 13 February 2024.
The Urban Rivers and Catchments Program 2023 grant round (round two) is now underway.
For more information please go to:
Projects will improve the ecological health of waterways in urban, outer urban and regional centres. As an open competitive process, only project sites located within the eligible boundary areas of program, and which meet the eligibility criteria, will be funded.
A pre-recorded information briefing about the grant opportunity is available below.
Information briefing for grant applicants
Wherever you are in Australia, welcome to this presentation, on the Urban Rivers and Catchments Program 2023 grant opportunity.
My name is Tim Allen. I'm the Director of the Urban Rivers and Catchments Section within the Australian Government's Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.
In starting this presentation, I wish to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where you're watching this presentation today. This presentation has been recorded on the traditional lands of the Bunurong people of the Kulin Nation in Melbourne, Victoria, and I wish to acknowledge and respect their continuing culture, and the contribution they make to the health of Country, its rivers and wildlife, and I acknowledge their Elders past and present. I would also like to acknowledge and welcome other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are watching this recording.
The rivers, creeks, and wetlands within Australia's urban areas are home to a myriad of native wildlife and plant species. They also provide people and local communities with access to better quality of living.
Nearly half of all nationally listed threatened animals and a quarter of our threatened plants occur in urban areas, and they share these areas with 96% of Australia's population.
Streams that pass through urban areas or receive stormwater runoff however, are often in poor condition due to vegetation clearing, hard surfacing of catchments, pollution from stormwater and street run off, and stream modification. These impacts contribute to aquatic species loss and poor stream health.
The $200 million Urban Rivers and Catchments Program is restoring the health of Australia's urban waterways for native plants, animals and local communities.
Projects funded by the program will help conserve native plants and animals, such as birds, platypus and native fish. They'll also improve community access to nature and waterways, which provide benefits for public health and social well-being.
In this presentation I will describe aspects of the grant opportunity, including:
- its purpose
- how to apply
- eligible locations
- how to map your project site
- the eligibility and assessment criteria; and
- how we will consider and assess grant applications.
I'll also explain the timing of the grant opportunity.
The Urban Rivers and Catchments Program comprises two rounds:
- Round one of which there is $91 million available for projects announced prior to the May 2022 election.
- Round two, $109 million from 2024-2025, over four years, for projects selected through a competitive grants round.
Today I'm going to be focusing specifically on round two, the $109 million that is available for projects through the competitive grant opportunity.
There are three program outcomes to the Urban Rivers and Catchments Program:
- Restored and/or improved stream bank or aquatic habitat to benefit native species, including threatened species or aquatic areas of significance, including wetlands of international significance known as Ramsar sites;
- Improved water quality, water in the landscape, and waterway connectivity to benefit native aquatic species including threatened aquatic species or aquatic areas of significance; and
- The improved or improvements to urban green and blue space, including community access to nature, water quality to benefit public health, and increased shading to help reduce the impacts of the urban heat island effect due to the impacts of climate change.
The grant opportunity I'm speaking about today is for two discrete streams of funding.
There is a total of $109 million available across both streams.
Stream one. There's $51 million available, and that's for small to medium scale projects with a grant value of between $150,000 to $2 million. This will provide grants for up to 100% of eligible expenditure. It's focused on small to medium sized community-based projects. That will include community organisations, NGOs, First Nations organisations, councils, and others. You need to direct at least 75% of the eligible project grant expenditure to onground activities.
And then there's stream two. Now stream two has $58 million available, and that's for large scale projects. All of the groups that are eligible under stream one are also eligible under stream two. In addition, State and Territory governments and departments are also eligible under stream two. This includes any department, or government agency, statutory authority or Government owned corporation that derives revenue from waterway management levies. The grant value for stream two is for projects between $2 million to $10 million. And they require a dollar-for-dollar matching cash contribution for the grant amount requested. This means the grant will provide up to 50% of the eligible project expenditure. You'll need to direct at least 85% of the eligible project grant expenditure to onground activities.
The types of eligible grant activities that will be covered under the grant opportunity need to address the program objectives and the outcomes. They need to be in an eligible location, so all project sites need to be within the eligible boundaries of the program, and I'll have more to say on that in a moment.
Projects need to benefit the ecological health of a waterway in an urban, outer urban or regional centres in Australia.
And they need to provide outcomes for native plants or animals at the project site.
The stream one grant applications must have at least $150,000 in eligible project expenditure. If you're a small organisation, you can join with other groups to lodge a joint application. Again noting, the smallest grant application that can be made is for $150,000.
For stream two, grant applications must match as cash, the same amount as the amount of grant funding requested i.e. dollar-for-dollar matching.
It's important that you look at the grant guidelines for the full list of eligible grant activities.
There's a wide range of examples of eligible onground works that the program will support to restore the health of urban waterways for native plants and animals, and benefit local communities.
This includes the regeneration of native vegetation on waterways, planting and revegetation of endemic native canopy trees and understory species, both along a waterway and extending out from the banks of a waterway.
You can extend areas of native vegetation out from the edge of a waterway onto the floodplain, or join areas of native vegetation in a corridor along a waterway to link up areas of remnant vegetation.
Also, projects that establish living wetlands, wetlands such as chain of ponds or swales or biofilters that filter and/or remove nutrients and sediments, or sediment pollution in stormwater, are eligible.
The conversion of concrete drainage channels and stormwater drains into living streams are eligible under the program.
To control erosion, we will also support activities that install flow regulating structures or put in place natural vegetation buffers or armouring to protect banks.
Installations that divert and/or reduce stormwater flows, particularly to saltmarsh and mangrove habitats that are naturally saline or estuarine – they are eligible (in eligible locations).
Removal of barriers to stream flow that might limit fish or animal movements and migrations along a waterway – the removal of those barriers are eligible onground works under the program.
As are the installation of on-river floating vegetation rafts or anchored boxes, ledges of native vegetation, where riverbanks are hard-lined, concreted, and highly modified will be considered.
We'll also look to support eligible activities that are providing in-stream or in-estuary habitat, for example the re-instatement of woody debris. Please note however that artificial reefs are not an eligible activity under the program.
The strategic installation of gross pollutant traps or interceptors to prevent plastic pollution from entering the estuarine and marine environment, which is considered a key threatening process under national legislation, are also eligible.
There’s a range of different project activities that I've just explained.
The following slides demonstrate some of the types of projects eligible under the program.
It's also important that you carefully read the guidelines to understand the grant activities that are ineligible. There is a detailed list in Appendix B.
Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Projects that propose a devolved grants process. Now what we mean by that is that you cannot run your own Expression of Interest or Grant Application and assessment process to award grants funds to a third party.
- You need to identify in your grant application all of the project sites you'll be working on, and you'll need to also detail those site localities in the application.
- You also cannot undertake construction or capital works of civil infrastructure that will significantly obstruct the natural flow of the waterway, including bridges, weirs or dams.
- Activities located in the marine environment are ineligible. However, if it's in that part of a stream or a river that's an estuary, or is a coastal barrier wetland, they're eligible.
The most important aspect is that projects are focused on waterways. Activities that are focused on the protection of coastal sand dunes, ocean shorelines, or bay shorelines are ineligible.
Activities that focus on the development of agricultural dams are ineligible.
The construction of pondage that primarily for irrigation, is ineligible.
Litter collection and community clean-up activities are ineligible under the grant opportunity, as are garden construction or maintenance activities.
It's important that you look carefully at the eligible locations, recognising that this is a program focused on urban waterways, including metropolitan cities, the outer fringes of urban areas, and regional centres.
Your project must be located within a Significant Urban Area. Now Significant Urban Areas are defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and the program has used the 2021 boundary layer developed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to define the eligible program area.
Your project site must also be within or near a waterway, including an estuary, river, creek, an ephemeral waterway or wetland, billabong, chain of ponds, or drainage channel.
So again, when preparing your application, you need to ensure that you identify the site, or sites, where the activities will occur. You'll also need to map that site and provide a polygon of the project location/s using the mapping tool link provided to you in the application form that you open.
The mapping tool can be used to map multiple sites, for inclusion in your project application.
All project sites and all project site boundaries must be located within the eligible boundaries of the program. Should any project site or project boundary fall outside the eligible boundaries, your application will be considered ineligible for funding.
You'll be able to check this before you start an application using a link on the business.gov.au website to the national map tool.
When you open the national map tool provided on that website and scroll in, you’ll notice large areas that greyed out that are obviously non-urban. But you’ll also see the pink areas, the eligible urban areas, and you can scroll in closely to see very clearly where the program boundaries start and finish.
This slide provides an example around Sydney. Looking at this map you can see the marine environment is ineligible. The lighter area is the eligible project area, and you can see very clearly the grey shaded area, the ineligible area.
This second example shows the area around Melbourne. You can see it covers some coastal areas, up into the hinterland. You can also see areas out to the northwest like Ballarat which are eligible, and out to the east other regional centres are included as well.
Again, the boundaries follow the significant urban area defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics with an application of a 500-metre buffer.
National map is just a preliminary aid to help you determine whether the project you might be considering is within the eligible area.
Once you actually commence an application, you’ll use a link within your application to generate a mapping shape file or polygon that you'll provide as part of the formal application.
Ineligible project locations are those beyond the 500 metres of the boundary of the Significant Urban Area layer, as defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, or if a project is not clearly linked to a waterway in an urban, peri urban, outer urban or regional centre in Australia.
Projects that are located in the marine environment again are ineligible. However, estuaries and barrier wetlands are eligible under the program.
Projects that are focused on coastal sand dunes or ocean shorelines, beaches or bay shorelines are ineligible under the grant opportunity.
So who can apply?
- You must have an Australian business number
- be located in Australia
- be one of the entities listed in section 4.1 of the program guidelines
- be authorised to act on behalf of the organisation, and have the support of your Board, CEO, or delegate to lodge an application
- you must have identified and defined all your project sites
- you can meet your share of the project costs, particularly the matching cash contribution for stream two
- you can demonstrate that you either have access to, or will have future access, to the land where you're going to be undertaking the project grant activities, and you will also have access to the infrastructure to implement the project
- that you can declare all the required permit approvals will be in place prior to the commencement of onground works.
Again, please see the grant guidelines for the detailed requirements.
Project applications will be assessed against 3 criteria and there is different weighting given to each of those criteria.
The first assessment criteria has a 40% weighting. This relates to the project's contribution to meeting the program objectives. Now, you should demonstrate this by describing how your project will restore or improve the waterway to benefit native plants and animals or aquatic areas of significance. How your project will benefit the community and improve urban blue and/or green space. The extent to which the project will contribute to the program outcomes, and how your project site and on ground actions have been strategically prioritised.
The second assessment criteria has a 35% weighting. This is looking at the quality of your proposal, the project's impact, and the impact of the project grant funding. You should demonstrate this by describing how your project is best practice in restoring or improving the waterway. It will also consider aspects of the project plan, including the project outcomes you'll undertake, project monitoring, evaluation reporting and adaptive management, the stakeholder and community engagement, including engagement with First Nations Australians. Your project risk assessment and risk management, including work, health and safety, financial, land access, technical and environmental risks, your project governance structure. And how you'll manage the project, and what permits and regulatory aspects you'll need to address, and the timeframe that you'll need to secure any approvals. You'll also need to attach a project budget and include any additional investment that your project will leverage.
The third assessment criteria, which has 25% weighting focuses on your organisation’s capacity, capability and resources to deliver the project. You should demonstrate this by describing the experience and track record of your organisation in managing projects of a similar scale, and complexity. Your organisation’s access to the resources required to successfully deliver the project and your capacity and commitment to maintain your project site and interventions, beyond the project.
The grant opportunity guidelines are over 30 pages. Please read these fully and carefully.
So again, in your application, you must address all the criteria. The amount of detail and evidence provided should be relative to the project size, complexity and the grant amount requested.
And you must provide evidence to support your answers.
Remember, this is a competitive process. You're going to be competing with other organisations. The quality of your application matters. And the way you present the information matters. Projects should be evidence-based and strategic, clearly described, and demonstrate value for public investment.
Mandatory information. You must provide the following information with your application.
Firstly, you must provide information on your project's site location, and you must provide a URL of the project location or locations using the mapping tool.
We'll also require a site condition report of the project site as it is now. This will provide the contextual information on the location, the physical characteristics of the project site and its significance. An example template is available is available on the business.gov.au website.
A comprehensive project plan is required. An example template which covers all the expected information is available on the website for applicants to use.
A project budget template is also provided.
You'll also need to provide a letter of support from each of the financial contributors to the project.
A title search is required, outlining the relevant landowner of the proposed project site, or sites.
And a letter of support from the land interest holder or site owner will be required if your organisation is not the responsible land manager or owner of the project site.
You'll also need to provide evidence of support from the board, CEO or equivalent if you're the applicant.
If applicable, you'll need to provide a copy of a trust deed.
And also if applicable, where Traditional Owners or First Nations organisations are the land owner, or have management rights or responsibilities, a letter of support, or evidence of the steps taken to obtain support, also needs to be provided.
How to apply?
You need to go to business.gov.au to access the key documents.
And before proceeding, again, please review all the documentation to ensure your project site and activities are eligible. Again, please read the guidelines carefully.
You need to check your project sites and locations are eligible. You need to set up an account to access the online portal to access the application form and then you need to complete an application form in line with the program guidelines, addressing all eligibility and assessment criteria, and include all necessary information. And see Section 7.1 in the guidelines for further information.
For joint applications. You can partner with other organisations to make a single application. The application must be completed by one lead organisation on behalf of the groups and aligned to the eligibility criteria.
Now of course late applications cannot be accepted and will be deemed ineligible. So please make sure that you lodge applications on time.
So, how to map your project site. Once you've worked out that your project is within an eligible area and you’ve opened an application, you'll be given a unique link in your application to a new window of your application form. You’ll use that link to map your project site using the tool provided. A detailed guide is available to help step you through the process.
Most importantly, the tool will not stop you from mapping in an ineligible area, so you need to carefully map your polygons, ensuring that all of your project boundaries are within the eligible program area.
If you look the two examples, the example on the left shows that the mapping polygon is all within the eligible area. No part of it strays over into the grey area that’s ineligible. That would be deemed an eligible project site.
On the right, you've actually got two project site polygons identified. The one on the left you'll notice is within the eligible site boundaries. But for the one on the right, you'll notice that some of the boundaries extend into the ineligible area. On account of that, that project would be deemed ineligible.
So again, you need to ensure that the project boundary polygon does not stray into an ineligible area.
Once you're happy with your polygons, then you need to actually save the mapping and you’ll need to copy the link of the polygons that you've created back into the application form. Make sure you check that, and that it’s correct, because if we don't have the correct mapping then we will not have access to your project sites to review as part of your application.
Can you submit more than one application? Yes you can.
But project activities in each application must be significantly different from each other.
Organisations can apply for both streams, again except State and Territory departments, and statutory authorities or corporations that derive revenue from waterway management levies. Those specific bodies can only apply for stream two.
You can submit multiple applications for either stream, again noting the project activities in each application must be significantly different from each other.
And again, if you're a small organisation, and you want to partner with other organisation, or even if you’re just an organisation that's not a small body and you want to partner with another organisation, then you can submit a joint application and lodge a single project proposal that can work across multiple different project sites. The most important thing is that you've got to appoint a single lead organisation that can act on behalf of all organisations.
The expected timing for the grant opportunity.
The grant guidelines and sample templates are available now at business.gov.au.
The online application form will open at the end of November 2023. So keep an eye out for when that will come online. You must submit your application through the online portal.
The grant opportunity closes on the 13th of February 2024, and again no late applications will be accepted.
Following the closing date, we’ll then undertake the assessment of applications. That should take about 10 weeks and that will be followed by ministerial approval, and announcements, the negotiation and the awarding of the grant agreements to successful applicants. Projects will start in the next financial year. So after July 2024.
Projects have to be completed within four years, so by February 2028 to enable all payments to be made. The end of the grant agreement is June 2028.
Further information on the grant opportunity is available at the business.gov.au website. That includes:
- Further information on activities
- How to check your site is an urban area
- And answers to FAQs, which will be updated while the application period is open
Additional resources are also available. This includes an extensive compendium of factsheets, research, and guidance material concerning urban waterways renewal. That is available through the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities website (watersensitivecities.org.au).
If you need further guidance, you can call 13 28 46 or you can e-mail with any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
So again, in closing, please read the guidelines carefully and fully.
Please familiarise yourself with the materials on the business.gov.au website to support your grant application. And in particular, note the:
- Site condition report template
- Project plan template
- Land interest holder letter templates
Again, please check your proposed project site is within an eligible area and please read the guidelines carefully and closely.
Most importantly, start planning and consulting on your project early.
Thank you for listening.
Details of projects contracted through Commonwealth to state and territory funding arrangements.
Projects contracted through round one
Round one projects will be delivered through the states and territories under the Federation Funding Agreement – Environment.
The project list will be updated as the Commonwealth enters agreements with each state and territory.
|Recipient||Delivery agent||Waterbody||Project title and project description||Funding|
|NSW State Government||Lake Macquarie City Council||Dora Creek, Cockle Creek and Slatey Creek, Lake Macquarie||
Improving the creeks of Lake Macquarie:The project will improve the waterway condition of three creeks linked to Lake Macquarie; Dora Creek, Cockle Creek and Slatey Creek. It will control weeds, stabilise creek banks, increase native vegetation through revegetation, and engage the community to reduce their impacts on these areas.
|NSW State Government||Shoalhaven City Council||Shoalhaven and Crookshaven Rivers, Nowra||Connecting Community to Shoalhaven Waterways
The project will reduce rubbish and pollution, and engage bushcare groups and bush regeneration companies to revegetate Shoalhaven and Crookshaven Rivers. An education program for local schools will also be developed.
|Commonwealth to New South Wales Government - agreement sub-total||$1,750,000|
|Recipient||Delivery agent||Waterbody||Project title and project description||Funding|
|South Australian State Government||Friends of Moana Sands Conservation Park||Pedler Creek, Adelaide||
Pedler Creek weed control and revegetation:
|South Australian State Government||Friends of Onkaparinga Park||Onkapringa River, Adelaide||
African feathergrass removal and revegetation at Onkaparinga Park:
|South Australian State Government||City of Marion||Sturt River, Adelaide||Warrappendi biodiversity project:
The project will create a new biodiversity corridor for native species between Sturt Road and the Patawalonga. It will implement actions to protect existing remnant native vegetation, undertake extensive weed control, and restore the corridor’s woodland and grassy understorey, revegetating ~2.45 hectares.
|South Australian State Government||City of Mitcham||Sturt River, Adelaide||
Riverside Drive creek stabilisation and improvement:
|South Australian State Government||Friends of Warriparinga||Sturt River, Adelaide||
Restoring the Oxbow:
|Commonwealth to South Australian Government - agreement sub-total||$729,075|
|Recipient||Delivery agent||Waterbody||Project title and project description||Funding|
Northern Territory Government
Rapid Creek, Mitchell Creek, Ludmilla Creek and Sandy Creek
Darwin Harbour Catchment Waterways Project:
Commonwealth to Northern Territory Government - agreement sub-total
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