Planning: Yarra River

On Monday, 5  November, I went on a guided tour of the Yarra  River  and received  an  important  briefing on  current  planning issues affecting  the river by  Ian Penrose of the  Yarra Riverkeeper Association.  The iconic Yarra River is integral to Melbourne.  The  river  provides  about 70 per cent of  our drinking  water and  is home  to hundreds  of different  plants and animals. The Yarra has an  important  history  which  must  be preserved, for it forms  a  unique  part  of  Melbourne’s identity. An opinion piece  in  the  Age newspaper of 14 October describes the Yarra in these terms:

  It  was  a life source for  the  original  inhabitants  of  this  region,  the  Wurundjeri  tribe,  for thousands of  years. The eyes of  white explorers were  first cast upon it in 1803, and 32 years later John Batman chose a spot on the  Yarra’s banks and proclaimed it would make ‘the place for a village’.

  How that village has grown.

The Yarra is  part  of not  only  Melbourne’s historical, natural  and  physical landscape  but also our social  landscape. The north-south  divide has become an important demarcation for differences in affluence and  lifestyle preference. An article in  the Age  newspaper of  5 February 2012 titled ‘A city divided’, with the subheading ‘Which side of  the Yarra you live on  speaks volumes – or  does it?’, takes a light-hearted look  at how  where you reside relative to the river can make a  big  difference. North-south  differences  aside, the  Yarra  unites communities for it is, to use a phrase used by T. S. Eliot, ‘within us’.

However, the Yarra is at risk from  a  clear  and  present danger: inappropriate development.  The  government’s  recent  announcements,   including  height  and environment controls, designed to safeguard the Yarra are a welcome step.

However,  given  that  the  Yarra   flows   through   several  local  government jurisdictions, an overall coordinated vision is required to  protect the Yarra’s beauty for generations to come.

As Joni Mitchell once sang,  ‘They paved paradise and put up a parking lot’.  We should  take great care to protect and preserve the health and character  of the iconic Yarra River.