Media release

Community expectations high of a world-class law for the Yarra

February 26, 2017


Environmental Justice Australia and the Yarra Riverkeeper welcome today’s announcement by the Victorian Government detailing new and innovative legislation to protect the Yarra River.

The Government’s intention to legislate for a Yarra River (Birrarung) Protection Act, with strong planning mechanisms, public participation and robust accountability measures, is part of a wide-ranging package of reforms contained in its Yarra River Action Plan announced today. These measures include a significant step toward a world-leading and innovative urban river law.

A key part of the Yarra River Action Plan is the early and ongoing involvement of the Wurundjeri Council, as the representatives of the traditional landowners of the Yarra and its catchment. This is an innovative and appropriate measure, and it is a first for a highly urbanised waterway.

‘The Yarra is at the heart of Melbourne’s identity. It is why the city was founded in the first place and it is the city’s single largest continuous green open space. It is central to our urban ecology, well-being and identity. The Yarra is now under enormous pressure from population growth. Its future demands robust long-term governance that will protect and improve the Yarra for generations to come,’ said Andrew Kelly, Yarra Riverkeeper.

‘I am pleased that the Government has accepted in full 28 of the 30 recommendations made by the Ministerial Advisory Council.  The recommendations consider the river as a landscape as there is much more to Melbourne’s Yarra than water. I congratulate both the government and the Ministerial Advisory Committee for developing a long-term, over-arching and integrated plan for Melbourne’s most important natural asset.’

‘If we get the Yarra River Protection (Birrarung) Act right it can serve as a model for river management elsewhere in Victoria, in Australia and indeed around the world,’ said Bruce Lindsay, lawyer with Environmental Justice Australia.

‘There are high community expectations around what can be achieved through the reforms announced today. The Act can establish a powerful centrepiece for protecting and restoring environmental values, bringing people into the process of looking after the river as well as enjoying it, and identifying it as a cultural place spanning thousands of years.’

‘We do need still to get from this moment of the announcement of Government policy to legislation and practice. The work and the challenges are not yet completed. Environmental Justice Australia and the Yarra Riverkeeper Association will continue to work with community groups to achieve what we set out to achieve.’

The Yarra Riverkeeper Association were instrumental in getting the concept of a Yarra River Protection (Birrarung) Act on the agenda. EJA and YRKA, in partnership with interested community groups, engaged in an intensive process of developing proposals and models for an effective and world-leading law for the Yarra.

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