Community vision for the Yarra River – responses from the community forum

This summary explains key themes and ideas derived from the Yarra community forum hosted by Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) and the Yarra Riverkeeper (YRK) on Wednesday 18 June 2015. This document summarises the key features that participants would like to see in a community vision for the Yarra.

The community forum

The forum was attended by approximately 100 people, including interested individuals, residents, representatives of organisations and community and councilors. The main focus of the event was input from forum participants for a vision for the Yarra River under a proposed Yarra River Protection Act.

Participants were asked to discuss what they would like to see in a vision for the management and governance of the Yarra River and to write these down under a series of themes. In particular, participants were asked to identify what they believe would occur if a Yarra River Protection Act was instituted and was working effectively. The themes around which participants were asked to provide responses were:

  • The obstacles that have been overcome.
  • Key achievements of the Act;
  • How agencies are working together;
  • What the community is saying;
  • What’s happening along the River.

The ideas and visions contributed by participants

Some of the key messages that came from participants when asked “what would occur if a Yarra River

Protection Act was instituted and working effectively” were:


There is ongoing and adequate funding, including a funding base that is long-term. There is funding targeted to restoration management of water quality and natural values.

There is a long-term framework – 50-100 years. In 2065, the Yarra River parkland along the entire course of the River is finally complete and the community are saying: ‘Wow, this couldn’t have happened if not for the 2016 YRPA.’

The Trust is the ‘go to’ organisation for Yarra issues.

There is transparency, coordination and collaboration between agencies and community (grass roots)

organisations. Collaboration and planning is proactive.

Yarra River Trust is a referring authority and conduit of information for other agencies. The Trust is an advocate for the River not merely a monitoring or regulatory agency.

Short- and long-term goals and standards have been set and there are robust means to get there.

The knowledge base for management is coordinated and delivers effective implementation goals. Interest groups are working together.

Planning and development

Review of development applications/ merits review processes; planning certainty; substantial set backs. Developers seeking to buy land or undertake projects subject to the Act can do so confidently with clear

parameters for what is and is not permitted. Development assessed for net River benefit.

There is a continuous corridor that includes minimum set backs and height controls which enable a

feeling of environmental values for all River users.

There is planning scheme certainty, providing in the short-term no further degradation and long-term a vision for a linear park.

Nature and biodiversity conservation

The ecological health of the River is accounted for from source to sea.

There are thriving ecological communities along course of the River. Fish, eels and invertebrates are health, breeding and edible along the course of the River. Native species populations are increasing and there is the rediscovery of flora thought to be extinct.

There is protection of the upper catchment from logging and establishment of Great Forest National Park. There is the protection of flood plains.

Environmental flows are satisfactory to the ecological needs of the River.

There are acquisition programs for the purchase of land along the River for conversion to public space or environmental restoration.

Water Sensitive Urban Design (WSUD)

The Act contributes to WSUD as mainstream practice. Integrated water cycle management is embedded in the Act.

Stormwater is a particular focus: that it is captured (where possible as a resource), that its flow into the River system is contained and controlled significantly improving water quality and ecological health, and that there is coordination and education on stormwater management.

Water quality allows activities such as swimming but also provides high level of water quality for natural environment and natural values. Water quality issues are viewed as applicable to ecological health as well as direct human health.

Access of cattle to the River and along the River bank has been removed.

Catchment planning and management

The Act is catchment focused. There is integrated management along the entire River corridor. Tributaries fall within jurisdiction of the Act.

National and international context

The Act is a model for river management around the world. Other strong River governance and management models have been considered and adopted into this model.

Community participation

There is pride in the River, widespread knowledge of the River and people are caring for it. For example, every weekend ten groups of volunteers are doing weeding, planting and monitoring, you can’t find discarded doggy bags in the bushes, you can go canoeing and find no litter to pick up, there are many fauna monitoring projects all reporting to the Trust and there is real time reporting of environmental data.

It is possible to walk or cycle to the mouth of the River. People are respectfully moving along the River by boat, bike or walking, creating minimal disturbance.

People are learning about, appreciated and celebrating the City’s rich Aboriginal heritage.

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