The Yarra Strategic Plan

A strategic plan is an overarching policy and planning framework to integrate the planning for the development, amenity, cultural and environmental values for a geographical area – in this case the Yarra River corridor.

The Yarra Strategic Plan needs to include:

- Long term community vision

- Narrative description of the river corridor

- Broad objectives and values that it seeks to recognize, protect and promote

- Performance objectives for waterway health, river parklands amenity, landscape and environmental, cultural and heritage values

- Identify regional infrastructure networks

- Set out a decision making framework against which an individual project or proposal may be assessed or evaluated

The community vision for the Yarra River will clearly outline the community’s requirements and expectations for the length of the Yarra River over the next 50 years. The community vision will be used to help drive decisions, actions and investment for the Yarra River.

The community vision will be given effect by the Yarra Strategic Plan.

Protecting the Yarra River and its parklands is critical to the future liveability and prosperity of Melbourne and the Yarra Valley. A healthy Yarra River is great for all Victorians. The Yarra Strategic Plan will harmonise activities and decision making to provide future direction for land use and development in the river corridor. It will enable the river to be respected and cared for as one living and integrated entity, not as separate components. This holistic approach blends the wisdom of Traditional Owners’ Caring for Country’ with contemporary values.

The Yarra Strategic Plan will focus on a wide range of issues relating to the river’s long term health and amenity. It will consider future land use planning, management of open space, access and environmental quality. It will also consider ways areas of high landscape, environmental, cultural, or historical significance can be protected into the future for the benefit of all Victorians.

The development of the Yarra Strategic Plan is underpinned by the Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung Murron) Bill 2017, that seeks to strengthen the protection and management of the Yarra River.

The Bill was introduced into Parliament on 20 June 2017 in a landmark event. It is the first Bill in Victoria to use the language of Traditional Owners in its title, and one of the first in Australia to include Traditional Owner language in the Bill’s body. The Bill identifies the Yarra River and the many hundreds of parcels of public land it flows through as one living, integrated natural entity for protection and improvement.

The vision and Yarra Strategic Plan will embrace the Caring for Country wisdom of Traditional Owners by working in partnership with the Wurundjeri Council to Wilip-gin Birrarung murron (Keep the Yarra alive). Traditional owners will also be members of the Birrarung Council which will be established through the Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung Murron) Bill 2017. The Birrarung Council is to act independently of the responsible public entities to advise the Minister on the development of the Yarra Strategic Plan and to act as the voice of the Yarra River.

A draft of the Yarra Strategic Plan will be ready for community exhibition in mid 2019.

Project Scope

The project area of the Yarra Strategic Plan will focus on land within one kilometre of the river’s edge, between the Upper Yarra Reservoir and the Port of Melbourne. The project may also consider issues that extend to the boundary of each municipality adjoining the river recognising that there may be broader catchment area issues that impact the Yarra, such as water quality.

The Yarra Strategic Plan may recommend new or updated planning controls to address issues that arise during the community consultation or the preparation of the plan. However, the main purpose of the Yarra Strategic Plan is to set out directions and priorities for more detailed planning studies for local areas within the river corridor in the future, as required.

As the Yarra River covers such a large area the river will be divided into different reaches. These reaches will reflect the varied character and land uses along the river corridor. This will enable consideration of the issues and opportunities specific to each reach and to recommend future management strategies that are appropriate for different parts of the river.

Melbourne Water is currently leading two key strategic pieces of work involving our waterways — the Healthy Waterways Strategy 2018–2028, and the Yarra Strategic Plan 2019–2029.

The Healthy Waterways Strategy has a ‘whole of catchment’ view of our waterways (including wetlands, estuaries, rivers and creeks). Five catchments are considered in the Healthy Waterways Strategy, the Yarra Catchment being one of them. It ensures our region’s waterways can support priority environmental, social, cultural and economic values which will guide management and investment into the future.

The Yarra Strategic Plan focuses on a more specific geographical area to the Healthy Waterways Strategy, concentrating on the Yarra River Corridor (rather than the whole of the Yarra catchment).

Although the Yarra Strategic Plan considers similar environmental, social, cultural and economic values, it will consider public open space along the river, statutory planning, and the management of public land and infrastructure.

The Yarra Strategic Plan provides future direction to land use and development in the corridor. Councils will need to consider the documents incorporated in the Yarra Strategic Plan for municipal planning into the future. The key point of difference to the Healthy Waterways Strategy is this strong land use output.

Whole of Government

The development of a Yarra Strategic Plan and Community Vision responds to key recommendations from the Yarra Ministerial Advisory Committee (Yarra MAC). This project will build on the information and community feedback already gathered through the Yarra MAC process.

The Victorian Government released the Yarra River Action Plan on 26 February 2017. It contains 30 actions to ensure the long-term protection of the Yarra River and its parklands. The action plan is the government’s response to recommendations made by the Yarra River Protection Ministerial Advisory Committee (Yarra MAC) in its final report delivered in December 2016.

The requirement to develop a Yarra Strategic Plan is outlined in Action 14 in the Yarra River Action Plan.

Once community feedback has been received on the draft Yarra Strategic Plan, a final Yarra Strategic Plan will be prepared and will include a detailed Implementation Plan.

The Implementation Plan will specify roles and responsibilities for all partner organisations involved in the protection and management of the river. It will include actions for the State Government and agencies, such as the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Melbourne Water, Parks Victoria and VicRoads. It will also include actions for Local Government areas along the river corridor. Opportunities for future community involvement may also be identified in the Implementation Plan.

Melbourne Water is facilitating the development of the Yarra Strategic Plan on behalf of the Victorian government. This includes facilitating the development of the Community Vision, the preparation of the Yarra Strategic Plan, protection and promotion of cultural and heritage values, developing long-term targets for the protection and management of the river and the monitoring and implementation of all of these actions.

All of the eight local councils along the Yarra River are playing an active role in the preparation of the Yarra Strategic Plan. This includes documenting all of the work being done by each local Council to protect and manage the Yarra River in their municipality. The Implementation Plan will also include actions that can be undertaken by Councils, such as detailed planning studies for local areas along the river.

The eight councils are: Banyule City Council, Boroondara City Council, Manningham City Council, Melbourne City Council, Nillumbik Shire Council, Stonnington City Council, Yarra City Council and Yarra Ranges Shire Council.

The Yarra River is the largest river in the Melbourne metropolitan area and is the major water source for Melbourne. Development pressure upon the Yarra has been raised as an issue of great concern among the wider community. The Yarra Strategic Plan is a flagship project in planning for an entire river system, and similar planning projects are proposed to be undertaken for other rivers in Victoria.

Your contribution

Melbourne Water are undertaking extensive consultation with the community and stakeholders in the development of the Yarra Strategic Plan.

The first phase of engagement focused on the development of the 50-year community vision, which will become the cornerstone of the Yarra Strategic Plan. Throughout September to October 2017 a series of opportunities for the community to get involved were held with the Library Imaginarium, walking focus groups, Wardin Silvan Field day, Yarra Conversations at the Arts Centre, Victoria Walks self-guided walk and Yarra Stories drop-in workshops and online web portal.

Phase two of the public engagement throughout May to July 2018 focused on the development of the Yarra Strategic Plan and the river’s key elements. Community workshops were held in each of the rivers reaches and an online web portal.

Workshop and online portal themes:

  1. Access
  2. Parklands
  3. Heritage and culture
  4. Landscape and views
  5. Experiences

Consultation reports will be available online in August/September 2018.

Following completion of the draft Yarra Strategic Plan, the Plan will be placed on public exhibition , scheduled for mid-2019. Submissions for the draft Yarra Strategic Plan will be referred to a Planning Panel for consideration and submitters will have an opportunity to make a further submission at a public hearing convened by the Planning Panel hearing.