Environmentalists push to protect the Maribyrnong River (Moonee Valley Leader)

By Madeleine Stuchbery, Moonee Valley Leader

ENVIRONMENTALISTS are rallying together to advocate for cleaner urban waterways in Melbourne’s northwest.

The Rivers of the West campaign – an initiative of several bodies, including Friends of Steele Creek, Environmental Justice Australia and Friends of the Maribyrnong Valley – is looking to have increased protections in law for the Maribyrnong River.

The push follows new legislation to care for the Yarra River, with the campaign looking to extend these protections to smaller waterways across Melbourne.

Helen van den Berg, from Friends of Steele Creek, said laws to protect and oversee the restoration of Melbourne’s western waterways would bring great benefits for the community.

“People’s lives are enriched when they have a beautiful river or creek they can walk beside and appreciate the birds, frogs, fish and platypus,” Mrs van den Berg said.

“These rivers are vital assets that belong to the whole community and for future generations. They should be acknowledged as such and given proper legal protection.”

The Rivers of the West campaign is led by Environmental Justice Australia, a team of lawyers advocating for better environmental protection.

Lawyer Dr Bruce Lindsay said the rivers of Melbourne’s west were valuable assets for the suburban communities. But they were at risk due to weak and fragmented laws, he said.

“For decades these rivers have been neglected and inaccessible, damaging species, biodiversity and the rivers’ resilience to climate change,” Dr Lindsay said.

According to the campaigners, rivers such as the Maribyrnong face a number of challenges, including urban growth, historic over clearing of vegetation, threatened species, and nearby contaminated land areas, such as the Commonwealth Defence site at Maribyrnong.

Environmental Justice Australia was involved in getting the groundbreaking Yarra River Protection Act passed through the Victorian Parliament in 2017.

Published by the Moonee Valley Leader on 8 February 2018

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