Preserving archaeological, environmental and Aboriginal heritage across the Parramatta Light Rail route is a key priority for this major transport infrastructure project.

Protecting heritage

To minimise impacts on important heritage landmarks and items across the Greater Parramatta region as much as possible, the Parramatta Light Rail network has been designed to use existing road and rail corridors. Transport for NSW acknowledges the area’s history and has a series of robust measures in place to ensure that any found items are sensitively handled.

Transport for NSW is working closely with NSW Government departments and agencies, including Heritage NSW and NSW Health, the City of Parramatta Council, and local community organisations, including the Local Aboriginal Land Council and Registered Aboriginal Parties, to ensure important heritage is preserved and maintained. The project teams take special care to avoid impacts on items of significance.

Sifting through soil

Greater Parramatta’s rich history

Archaeological investigations and heritage salvage works provide us with a unique opportunity to learn more about the area’s history – Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal – and to preserve places and items of value.

The process

Archaeological salvage work is intended to assess and record any remains of historic sites, as well as potential Aboriginal sites, before construction begins. Archaelogical investigations are conducted by excavating localised areas, or ‘sondages’, are excavated in linear trenches or ‘test pits’ to determine the nature and extent of archaeological material that might be unearthed. Investigations are conducted layer by layer to assess the surrounding material and depth, until the bottom (earliest) archaeological layer is identified.

What happens next? 

If foundations or evidence of buildings are found, these are recorded and assessed by heritage specialists. Where impacts cannot be avoided, the project teams consult with Heritage NSW to discuss the best way to plan, respond and protect the items in question.

Where artefacts or heritage items are identified during investigation works, these are labelled and documented in an archaeological excavation report by expert archaeologists to ensure that any cultural materials unearthed are recorded and reported. 

The project team will also look to protect and conserve found items by, for example, incorporating materials into public art or heritage displays in and around the light rail route, and sharing findings from our research.

Significant finds 

When a significant archaeological find is unearthed, construction is halted until a decision is made about how to approach the area. Mitigation measures might include a minor amendment to the design plans or an alternate method of construction. 

Where options have been exhausted, a detailed salvage excavation will take place involving the controlled and systematic investigation, recording and removal of archaeological deposits.

Early colonial or state-significant building materials unearthed during archaeological salvage excavations are stored for potential reuse and interpretation.

A new life

In the course of building the new light rail network, historic finds are considered for heritage interpretation as a first priority. This means reusing or preserving the item for a specific purpose or in a place that will evoke and pay tribute to its history. The find is recorded before being very carefully removed.

For example, old sandstone is able to be reused in kerbing, footpath inlays and integration into landscape elements such as borders or small walls, particularly in heritage areas or near heritage items. In some instances, the project will share historic materials with local stakeholders such as the City of Parramatta Council or Deerubbin Local Aboriginal Land Council for their own repurposing. Approximately 250 blocks of heritage sandstone were recently recovered and repurposed to recreate road kerbing along O’Connell Street in North Parramatta, as part of the Parramatta Light Rail program of works.