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For four decades, planners and consultants have been thinking about the best ways to protect the Yarra River. But so far, despite many very high quality plans, the river is not getting the full benefit.

For four decades, planners and consultants have been thinking about the best ways to protect the Yarra River. But so far, despite many very high quality plans being produced, the river is not getting the full benefit.

Our new report, produced jointly with the Yarra Riverkeeper, shows that planning and policy for the Yarra is failing to deliver better planning outcomes for the river

The Yarra is Melbourne’s lifeblood and a key ingredient in the city’s famous ‘liveability’. But this iconic waterway is under threat, squeezed by overdevelopment along its banks, while water quality problems and threats to native species continue.

The report, to be released tonight, Charting the Yarra: A review of 40 years of reports and plans for the Yarra River corridor, aims to find out how decades of good plans have delivered some gains for the Yarra but stalled. .

We discovered that, over the years, many plans have been commissioned, paid for, made good recommendations –  only to see many of them shelved.

What will help revive momentum for the Yarra is an independent body that has the power to put the river first, and integrated river management under a single Act that brings all the rules together in one place.

While we need to recognise that governing and urban waterway will always be complex, weak and piecemeal adoption of recommendations by councils and agencies has resulted in an  excessive hodge-podge of council jurisdictions, planning laws and state authorities. This leads to a fragmented, inconsistent approach.

While there has been some progress, such as improvements in water quality and protecting the open space that Melbourne’s foremost river still hasn’t got the legal protection and governance tools it needs.

Authorities such as Melbourne Water have done a great deal within the constraints and powers they have, but the law hasn’t allowed them to manage the river in an optimal fashion, as the major natural feature of Melbourne’s landscape.

Read the report: Charting the Yarra: A review of 40 years of reports and plans for the Yarra River corridor