The Yarra River is a crucial landscape and environmental corridor and helps define the identity of the City of Yarra. It is a major parkland, biodiversity and recreation corridor serving local communities and the wider region.
How are we protecting the Yarra River?
In June 2015, we asked the Minister for Planning for stronger interim planning controls along the river. The Minister approved interim controls for Yarra in January 2016.
These controls have now been replaced with the new interim Design and Development Overlay (DDO01), Yarra (Birrarung) River Corridor Protection. This control came into effect on 24 February 2017 and will expire on 31 January 2021.
The new controls are very similar to the previous 2016 ‘interim controls’ that existed in Yarra, but include some greater restrictions such as increased set-backs and reduced maximum building heights.
The new controls also include a mandatory restriction that new buildings and works must not cast any shadow across the river bank between 11am and 2pm on 22 June.
Are planning controls for the whole length of the river being considered?
The planning controls apply to the Yarra River from Richmond to Warrandyte. The Yarra Planning Scheme has been changed to include the interim controls as have the planning schemes in the Cities of Banyule, Boroondara, Manningham, Nillumbik and Stonnington.
What else is the State Government doing to protect the Yarra River?
The Planning Minister released the Yarra River Action Plan in February 2017. It sets out a range of short and longer term actions to improve the Yarra River. This is the Government response to the final report of the Yarra River Protection Ministerial Advisory Committee (Yarra MAC).
Yarra Strategic Plan (YSP)
Current work to implement the Yarra River Action Plan includes the Yarra Strategic Plan (YSP). The YSP is being prepared by Melbourne Water.
This indicates a range of phases for this project including:
- Engagement to develop a shared community vision for the Yarra River - September to November 2017
- Release of the Yarra Community Vision - Early 2018
- Release of Yarra Strategic Plan engagement findings - Mid 2018
- Draft Yarra Strategic Plan Public Exhibition - (TBC)
The YSP will, we understand, be incorporated in planning schemes and have a similar level status to plans such as Plan Melbourne. It will impact on development applications, local policy and planning scheme amendments. The scope of the YSP should include planning, coordination, river water quality and health, open space planning and related infrastructure such as new links and better access.
Abbotsford Structure Plan (ASP)
This initiative is part of the Action Plan and assigned to Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) for implementation. The scope of the ASP was outined in the Action Plan and includes the river corridor from Victoria Street to Dights Falls. It specifically refers to ‘development of the Abbotsford riverside between Flockhart and Gipps Street (which) has the potential to become an important link in Melbourne’s public open space and trail network’. A priority for the ASP would be improving access for all.
Initial information from DELWP suggested work on this ASP would commence late 2017 and be completed by the end of 2018. More recent information indicates that there is no specific commitment to starting this project. Further information on the timing of this project will be made available when it is released by State agencies.
Abbotsford missing link
The Action Plan includes a project (Action 23) to ‘secure the footprint, provide all-abilities access, and connect the Yarra Main Trail between Victoria Street and Dights Falls including a low-level river crossing.’ This project is assigned to Parks Victoria and has medium term timing. It is not clear where the suggested ‘low-level river crossing’ would be located but the most likely location would be near the north end of Church Street, Abbotsford.
Other waterways - River corridor strategic planning guidelines
DELWP has been preparing ‘River corridor strategic planning guidelines’. These could apply to a range of waterways. The guidelines could serve as a template for strategic planning for waterways such as the Merri or Darebin Creek. The guidelines would also serve as an overarching guide for the YSP. The guidelines are anticipated to be finalised by mid-2018.
Where can I get more information?
The Yarra River Action Plan and the Yarra MAC final report are available on the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning website.
Work on the YSP is explained at www.imaginetheyarra.com.au.
The Yarra Riverkeeper Association aims ‘To protect and restore the Yarra River and its tributaries, from source to mouth, for current and future generations.’ This community based organization advocates for the River and other waterways. Its website includes a range of information about the River, progress, news and current activities.