Ensuring a Sustainable Yarra
Council is committed to reducing Yarra’s eco-footprint and working to restore our local environment. Addressing climate change, reducing our use of limited resources such as energy and water, as well as minimising our waste and pollution, are an important focus of Council’s efforts. Increasing and improving local open space and biodiversity are also critical.
The Yarra River, Merri and Darebin Creeks form three of Yarra’s boundaries to the south, east and north. The Merri Creek and Yarra River have adjoining linear open space reserves which are highly valued by residents of Yarra and wider metropolitan Melbourne for their recreational and nature conservation values.
In contrast, there are highly urbanised areas of the City with almost no open space including Collingwood, Cremorne and North Richmond. Yarra is renowned for large historical gardens, particularly Edinburgh and Darling Gardens located in North Fitzroy and Clifton Hill. Yarra has more than 230 hectares of open space, including playgrounds, sports ovals and 120 parks and gardens, a greater amount per person (34m2) than the City of Stonnington (27m2) although less than the Cities of Melbourne (99m2) or Port Phillip (61m2).
Around 28% of Yarra is covered by roads and other hard surfaces, another 28% by roofs. Much of the rain falling in Yarra thus ends up as polluted stormwater running in to our rivers and creeks.
Yarra City Council
Council has recently adopted the Yarra Environment Strategy which outlines a vision for local sustainability – for “a vibrant, liveable and sustainable inner city that the community can be proud of” – and sets targets for both Council’s operations and for the wider community.
Community expectations about the environment are changing, with a clear view that Council will take a leadership role.
Council has set a range of environmental targets in the Yarra Environment Strategy. Many of these targets are specific to Council’s operations with a strong expectation that these will be achieved on time (these are detailed below as Strategic Indicators). Two important community outcomes set by Council are for:
- a 25% reduction in greenhouse emissions across the community by 2012 (and carbon neutral by 2020).
- a 25% reduction in water consumption across the community below the 2000/2001 baseline year.
Challenges and opportunities
Australia has the fourth highest ‘eco-footprint’, the amount of land required to support each person, and Yarra’s eco-footprint is greater than the Australian average. There is a heightened focus on environmental sustainability as dramatic weather events around the globe, and long-term drought in south-eastern Australia, impact on our basic needs and way of life.
Many of Australia’s pacific neighbours are now becoming ‘climate refugees’ as their islands are rendered uninhabitable by rising sea levels.
There is a global need to reduce our resource use, particularly the dependence on the limited supplies of fossil fuels – coal, gas and oil – which are also major sources of greenhouse gases. Council can reduce its resource use more easily, however this is a small proportion of the community’s use: it is estimated that only 1% of Yarra’s greenhouse gases are produced through Council operations.
Reducing car use can be achieved through improving public transport options and capacity, as well as better and more bike paths and bike parking, improved footpaths and more shady street trees. Improving the ‘environmental’ design aspects of new and existing buildings will ensure greater energy efficiency, and this is most effectively done very early in the design and planning stage.
Reducing and redressing our impacts on the natural environment are also important to ensuring local biodiversity, especially along waterways and associated parkland.
Melbourne’s limited water supplies mean there is also pressure to reduce Council and the community’s water usage. Through a range of projects Council has already achieved significant water savings, and these types of projects will continue but there is still much to be done to assist the Yarra community to become more water-efficient.
The Yarra community is increasingly aware of the environmental cost of ‘food miles’ and the benefit of local food production. Yarra’s community gardens are a valued resource, especially for flat-dwellers without private gardening opportunities. Council will seek to increase local food production, particularly through an increase in community gardens.
Extreme weather, particularly heatwaves, has a larger effect on vulnerable communities. Residents with disabilities, seniors and those on low incomes are less able to cope with high and prolonged temperatures, or to adapt their homes through better insulation and appropriate air-conditioning. Council will continue to work with the State Government and local health services to ensure the community is aware and better able to deal with heatwaves.
Council will employ the following Strategies, will measure progress through these Strategic Indicators and proposes some Initiatives to achieve the Strategic Objective of Ensuring a Sustainable Yarra.
Council’s work to achieve this Strategic Objective will include the following strategies:
- Ensure access to a high quality ‘green’ open space network aiming for fully accessible features
- Reduce Yarra’s negative environmental impacts, with a focus on maximising early improvements
- Encourage local food production and community gardens
- Enhance Yarra’s environmental performance
- Promote Yarra as a leader in environmental programs including responding to climate change and engaging residents in such programs as Greener houses growing greener neighbourhoods through the neighbourhood house network
- Work to increase the proportion of planning applications that incorporate Environmentally Sustainable Design and Accessibility Design principles.
Council’s progress towards this Strategic Objective will in part be measured and reported through these Indicators:
- Increase in residents living within 400 metres walking distance to open space
- 40% reduction in potable water consumption in Council operations by 2013 (below 2000/01 baseline)
- Council to be carbon-neutral by the end of 2012
- Reduction in Council’s energy consumption by 30% below 2000 / 2001 baseline.
- Increase Yarra’s street trees by at least 250 per annum
- Treat storm water runoff to meet 10% of Best Practice Performance Objectives for stormwater quality improvement as set out in Melbourne Water’s Water Sensitive Urban Design Guidelines
- Implement at least 10 community sustainability initiatives.
Activities and projects Council proposes to work on over the next four years, subject to approval through the annual Budget process, include:
1. Develop and set up an ‘energy foundation’ to undertake energy audits and retrofits of residential dwellings
2. Introduce 5 new parks by 2013
3. Build water sensitive urban design projects including wetlands, rain gardens, street tree pits and tanks, and provide support for residents to introduce their own water tanks and grey water systems
4. Implement the other actions from, and reach the targets set in the Environment Strategy
Back to top