Parks Victoria’s litter management under the microsope

Litter Parks Victoria
Docklands watch tower
Jackie Watts

People tend to be drawn to live close by to waterways, whether these be rivers, harbours or beaches. The Docklands community is evidence of this universal attraction.

Docklanders are likely to be more conscious than many around Port Phillip Bay that that we need to pay close attention to our waterways and our beaches, which form the critical interface between the land-side waters – riverbanks, the port harbours, the beaches and the Bay.

The question arises: Are we doing a good job in cleaning-up the collective “mess” – of water-borne (rubbish aka litter) sluicing into Port Phillip Bay from Victoria Harbour, commercial Port Docks and Birrarung/Yarra and Maribyrnong rivers and creeks?

Urban waterside residential areas such as the CBD, Docklands and bayside beaches are places to evaluate most visible whether a decent job is being done? As a Docklands resident – what do you see?

Parks Victoria is the primary government agency responsible for cleaning-up the “mess” before it reaches the ocean.

First, the good news!  A litter audit by Parks Victoria Depot in Burnley in January 2024, found litter collected by the Automatic River Cleaner is significantly more effective than earlier litter-traps described by PV as “next-to-useless”.

So, is the problem of waterways litter collection around Docklands and the CBD solved? Visibly, absolutely not!

This month Melbourne Maritime Heritage Network (MMHN) wrote to Parks Victoria and the City of Melbourne (CoM) registering a complaint about the appalling and persistent practice adopted by Parks Victoria of parking a full litter collection device for extended periods alongside a popular CBD riverside walking path in the CBD adjacent to the Convention Centre (aka Jeff’s Shed).

In this most prominent place adjacent to a major facility makes a mockery of Parks Victoria’s claims of success in its recent litter audit. Unlike PV, the CoM promptly acknowledged MMHN’s complaint and sent it on to address. PV is yet to respond.

PV is not responsible for coastal municipalities, which also perform sub-standard litter management practices. A Mornington Shire councillor described mechanical beach-raking of bay beaches as so useless as to be counter-productive. Raking actually exacerbates the environmental litter problem by breaking plastic objects on beaches to microplastic fragments which upon raking, are re-buried in the sand only to be washed away into the ocean as the tides fluctuate. Such microplastics are a dangerous scourge on the ocean, and a serious risk to bird and marine life. An environmental disaster, a by-product of wrong-headed inefficient first world litter management.

Both PV and bayside councils clearly need to follow the lead of Mornington Council in re-thinking the hidden environmental cost of inadequate litter management. Mornington Council is to be commended for convening an internal working group and considering a potential research project to better understand the impacts and options for an alternate approach to beach cleanings. Let’s use these findings to inform other councils and Parks Victoria litter programs.

The Docklands community is, of course, situated at the critical interface between the inland waterways and the Bay. Please look closely at what is, or what is not, happening with litter on the water’s edge. Docklands and the City of Melbourne deserve a better performance by PV. Current PV litter management would simply not be tolerated in any comparable state capital city.

As part of Australian Heritage Week, MMHN Invites the Docklands Community to forthcoming event on April 20 at 10.30am, which we hope will be of interest to Docklands residents.

Now you see it. Soon you won’t! Heritage Shipping Control Tower, Victoria Harbour

An informal on-site presentation which is MMHN’s contribution to the 2024 Australian Heritage Week. This impressive maritime infrastructure asset owned by state government is highly significant in the evolution of Melbourne. It now languishes, devoid of heritage protection, neglected and left to rot.

MMHN will share what we know of its history, the regrettable disregard for its cultural value and perhaps its future?

Where: Gather at the tip of North Wharf, Docklands. Take the Collins St tram to the last stop, then walk towards Docklands library. Continue walking along the North Wharf Rd towards the Bolte Bridge. •

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