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Group compromises on water governance

13 Aug 2015

Group compromises on water governance Image

By Sean Car

The Lower Yarra River Use Future Directions Group has reached a compromise, but unified, agreement on the future governance and management of local waterways.

Southbank Local News understands that a final draft of the group’s report to the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water, Lisa Neville, has now been finalised by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

The report recommends the establishment of a new and independent interim advisory body consisting of three high-profile, government-appointed members, which would work with regulator Parks Victoria to manage the waterway.

The new committee would employ a CEO and would draw support staff from Parks Victoria and the City of Melbourne.

While the group was unanimous in its desire to establish a single authority to govern and activate the waterways, it has agreed that the recommendations outlined in the report are a step in the right direction.

With 15 intersecting Acts currently governing the waterways, the group conceded that achieving ultimate reform was not possible in the short-term.

According the group’s independent chairperson Tony Kelly, stakeholders would be given a week to provide final comments on the report, before it is finalised and submitted to Ms Neville.

“We have come to an agreement on a plan to move forward,” he said. “It’s a start not the end. It was the first time every party has come to the table to have a robust conversation.”

The group includes representatives from DEWLP, Parks Victoria, City of Melbourne, Yarra River Business Association, Melbourne Passenger Boating Association, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure.

Southbank Local News understands that the group has been given an assurance that the new advisory committee would have authority to instruct Parks Victoria on how to manage the waterways, which would be outlined in a side letter from the minister.

However, there are concerns from some members that the independence of the committee could be undermined, with Parks Victoria remaining the chief regulator.

Mr Kelly said that while it wasn’t the perfect solution, for now, it was the right one.

“No individual is going to get what he or she wants,” he said. “If we don’t present a unified position on this then it will be difficult for government to act.”

“I’m confident that if everyone puts their heart and souls into the plan then it will act as a stepping stone in the right direction.”

“The Government will serve the needs of the committee as much as possible.”

While the group is still yet to demonstrate a business case for the model, it is expected that the final report will be presented to Minister Neville before the end of August.

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