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One fewer excuse on governance

04 Aug 2016

By Bethany Williams

The State Government has one less excuse up its sleeve to explain why it can’t introduce a single, independent river authority for the Lower Yarra now.

While Minister for Water Lisa Neville has previously claimed more work needs to be done before any decisions are made about the single-governance model, the release of a discussion paper last month rules out at least one of these excuses.

The Protecting the Yarra River (Birrarung) Discussion Paper produced by the Yarra River Protection Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC), looks at how best to protect the Yarra River and doesn’t mention river governance reform in Docklands or Southbank.

Earlier this year, Ms Neville rejected the recommendation of the Lower Yarra River Use Future Directions Group to establish a single waterways authority for the Lower Yarra, opting instead to establish a waterways committee under Parks Victoria.

At the time she said she wasn’t ruling out the eventual establishment of a single waterways authority but more work had to be done to determine a long-term solution.

According to Ms Neville, this work included the maritime safety review and the Yarra River Protection Act.

The Yarra River Protection MAC was formed to drive consultation and draft the new Yarra River Protection Act.

However, despite Ms Neville suggesting this work could guide future governance solutions in Southbank and Docklands, concerns specific to these areas, including governance, are absent from the committee’s recent discussion paper.

Chair of the Yarra River Protection MAC Chris Chesterfield confirmed the group was not specifically looking at the issues affecting the Docklands and Southbank sections of the river.

The government has also acknowledged their awareness of the unique river environment in both Southbank and Docklands through the exclusion of these areas from recent planning reforms.

One of the key steps the government has already taken to protect the river is the implementation of stronger planning controls along the river, between Richmond and Warrandyte.

“The Andrews Labor Government is determined to protect the 240km of river between Richmond and Warrandyte. By working with the community we can deliver long-term, meaningful change,” Ms Neville said.

Mr Chesterfield agreed that the planning controls were not introduced in Docklands and Southbank due to the very different planning environment.

He said a significant motivation for setting up the Yarra River Protection MAC was the amount of development occurring between Richmond and Warrandyte.

This again refutes Ms Neville’s claim that work relating to the Yarra River Protection Act could inform future governance arrangements in the lower Yarra.

By the end of 2016 the Yarra River Ministerial Advisory Committee will provide advice to the government on a number of reforms including;

  • Waterways health;
  • Community use, access and amenity of the river and its network of parklands and open spaces; and
  • Interface of the river with adjacent land uses and its catchments.

The Protecting the Yarra River (Birrarung) Discussion Paper is open for public comment until Friday, August 5.

Find the discussion paper at http://haveyoursay.delwp.vic.gov.au/protecting-the-yarra-river

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