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Waterways authority is starting to sink

03 Mar 2016

Waterways authority is starting to sink Image

The future of Docklands' waterways is in jeopardy, with the government predicted to dismiss a proposal for a local port.

Its understood Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water Lisa Neville will soon release her response to the Lower Yarra River Use Future Directions Group’s (LYRUFDG) recommendations for the management of the Lower Yarra.

The group met on February 19 and was presented with a purported draft of Ms Neville's response to its final recommendations.

One of the key recommendations of the group, which comprised private and government representatives, was the establishment of a new local port.

But proponents have been told Ms Neville does not intend to support this approach, instead favouring a model, which will see the existing governance structure remain relatively unchanged.

A local port would provide a single river authority, resolving the current situation, which sees multiple government agencies managing different aspects of the river.

According to the final LYRUFDG recommendations to Ms Neville, the current governance situation is too difficult for the private sector to navigate and, accordingly, the river is failing to reach its tourism, heritage and environmental potential.

It’s widely agreed that the economic success of the waterways is contingent on an innovative leader who will unlock the potential of this under-utilised asset.

The group also recommended the establishment of a management committee, headed by an independent chairperson, charged with implementing a “shared vision” for the Lower Yarra and working with all relevant agencies to oversee management of the river.

The shared vision is as follows: “The Lower Yarra is a central feature of one of the world’s most liveable cities – Melbourne. The future development of it facilities, activities and natural values need to support Melbourne’s role as a leading world city.”

But it’s understood that, while Ms Neville supports the “shared vision”, she is likely to endorse a different approach, which will not lead to the development of a local port, nor a single authority to manage and develop the waterways.

It’s understood that, rather than undertaking further work towards a single authority, the Minister could just ask the relevant government agencies to work together more collaboratively.

If she decides this, then there will be no single body responsible for management and development of the waterways.

Rather than an independently-chaired management committee Parks Victoria could be provided with funding to establish and support a committee to advise it on management and berthing issues.

Docklands Chamber of Commerce president Joh Maxwell has requested a meeting with Ms Neville before the minister makes a decision.

Mr Maxwell said she had not officially heard Ms Neville’s response to the LYRUFDG recommendations.

“However, the chamber will continue to support a single governance model,” Mrs Maxwell said.  “Under a single governance model our waterways will become the jewel in Victoria’s crown.”

While the future governance of the waterways isn’t looking good, it’s understood the situation is potentially more positive for commercial boat operators.

The LYRUFDG had advocated for longer-term leases for commercial overnight berths and provision of exclusive commercial berths and “quick stop” berths at a fee for service.

It’s understood Ms Neville broadly supports these recommendations and that money will be provided to improve berthing conditions.

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