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No independent authority, just yet

26 Apr 2016

No independent authority, just yet Image

By Bethany Williams

Docklands will be waiting at least another two years for the establishment of an independent waterways authority.

Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water Lisa Neville last month announced her support for a new waterways committee under Parks Victoria, rather than an independent authority.

The move comes in response to the recommendations of the Lower Yarra River Use Future Directions Group’s (LYRUFDG), which included the establishment of a single waterways authority in the form of a local port and committee of management.

Ms Neville said she was “not ruling out” the eventual establishment of a single waterways authority but said more work needed to be done to determine a long-term solution.

She said work being done around the maritime safety review and Yarra River Protection Act would help to determine the best arrangement.

“We wanted to put in place something for the next couple of years while these works are going on,” Ms Neville said. “This isn’t the end of the story.”

Docklands Chamber of Commerce President Joh Maxwell, who led a deputation of local stakeholders at a meeting with Ms Neville last month, said the establishment of the new committee was a positive outcome.

“It’s a positive step forward in what has been a long process,” Mrs Maxwell said.

“It’s great that we as a community had the opportunity to meet with the Minister and discuss our concerns about the future governance of the waterways.”

“The chamber looks forward to the ongoing updates and the opportunity to participate in the ongoing development and planning process to ensure the jewel in Docklands’ crown, our waterways, are activated,” Mrs Maxwell said.

The State Government has committed $450,000 for Parks Victoria to establish and support the three-person committee to advise on the management of the Lower Yarra and allocation of berths over the next two years.

Parks Victoria will also engage an independent consultant to advise on strategy for commercial berth allocation and a probity officer to oversee the berth allocation process.

In response to the LYRUFDG recommendations $2 million has also been committed for the development of floating berths at Southgate Wharf.

The LYRUFDG had recommended the establishment of a local port and a management committee headed by an independent chair charged with implementing the vision for the river and working with relevant parties to oversee and co-ordinate management of river issues.

It’s widely accepted that the current situation, which sees intersecting pieces of legislation and multiple authorities overseeing management of the Lower Yarra has led to paralysis and a failure to unlock the potential of the waterways.

It’s also agreed by many stakeholders that the economic success of the Lower Yarra depends on a single, visionary leader.

While private sector members of the LYRUFDG had wanted the management committee to be an independent group, a compromised decision accepted the continued involvement of Parks Victoria as an interim solution.

Ms Neville said the interim governance arrangement with Parks Victoria would be in place for around two years and, in the meantime, many of the issues relating to the waterways would be resolved.

“What I think we have put in place today with this funding is to get everyone on the same page about achieving the outcomes and the vision the community has outlined to us,” Ms Neville said.

“More work will be needed to get the long-term management right, but these first steps get key groups at the table to ensure consistent and clear decision making and accountability.”

“We’re proud to invest in the future of the Lower Yarra so business, tourism and locals can make the most of this great waterway for years to come.”

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