A new law to protect the Yarra Birrarung
It’s one of Melbourne’s iconic waterways and an important green corridor. Yarra Birrarung is culturally significant and loved across the state, but for decades it was treated as little more than a drain. Its flows have been modified, its connections to wetlands disrupted, its governance fragmented.
A years-long campaign resulted in the Yarra Birrarung becoming the first Victorian river to have a piece of legislation devoted to its protection.
The passage of the Yarra River (Wilip-gin Birrarung murron) Protection Act through Victoria’s Parliament on 21 September 2017 was the culmination of legal work and advocacy by Environmental Justice Australia lawyers, the Yarra Riverkeeper Association and many community and environment groups.
Although the condition of the Yarra Birrarung had improved over recent decades, it remains threatened by many, accumulated impacts such as stormwater flows and encroaching development in the catchment. Continuing to protect environmental and cultural values of the river is crucial, but mapping a pathway for restoration is even more pressing.
The Act sets up a long-term environmental framework for the protection and restoration of the Yarra Birrarung and established a Birrarung River Council including Traditional Owners to advise and advocate for the river and its surrounds.
The law is an innovative example of how we can manage urban rivers and should act as a foundation for the legal protections which should be afforded to waterways across Melbourne and Victoria.