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River committee appointed

09 Mar 2017

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By Shane Scanlan

The long-awaited, but likely ineffectual, Lower Yarra River Advisory Committee has been appointed.

The committee is to be chaired by Parks Victoria board member Christine Trotman, with other members being City of Melbourne director Linda Weatherson and private sector appointee Jonathan Metcalfe.

The formation of the committee is a watered-down outcome flowing from the November 2015 recommendations of the Lower Yarra River Use Future Directions Group (LYRUFDG).

That group recommended that a management committee be appointed to oversee a transition of governance from Parks Victoria and the City of Melbourne to a new single entity.

The group was unanimous in recommending that the committee be headed by an “independent and influential” chair.

Similarly, there was no dissent from its recommendation that: “a new local port be established and the port manager effectively becomes the single entity and it be directed to appoint a management committee.”

Fragmented and bureaucratic waterways governance has been identified by the Docklands Community Forum as one three major obstacles to be overcome if Docklands is to reach its full potential.

However, former Environment Minister Lisa Neville did not accept the LYRUFDG’s recommendations and instead allowed Parks Victoria to establish the Lower Yarra River Advisory Committee.  Minister Neville later told a deputation from the Docklands Chamber of Commerce that the new committee would, in fact, transition governance to an independent single entity but this objective appears to have been lost since Ms Neville has been replaced as minister.

In announcing the Lower Yarra River Advisory Committee on February 9, the current Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio said the committee would “provide advice on potential improvements to governing arrangements and management of the Lower Yarra River, aligning the work of Parks Victoria and the City of Melbourne.”

The press release announcing the committee said: “They will help develop a strategy and advise on the allocation of commercial berths and identify future funding needs for the waterway.”

“Christine Trotman has spent most of her career in the not-for-profit sector and currently chairs the Australian Institute of Company Directors Regional Council for Gippsland and is an independent member of the Audit and Risk Committees for East Gippsland Water and Uniting Care Gippsland.”

“Linda Weatherson is the Director of City Operations at the City of Melbourne, where she has worked for 27 years overseeing the Arts Melbourne, Community Services, Health and Wellbeing, Libraries and Recreation and Social Investment branches.”

“Jonathan Metcalfe is the principal for JNM Advisory Pty Ltd, a specialist management advisory service providing guidance to governments and private companies.”

“The new committee will help support our vision for the future of the Lower Yarra to remain a key feature that makes Melbourne one of the world’s most liveable cities.”

Ms D’Ambrosio said: “This is a great group of experienced and qualified professionals and I have every faith that they will help deliver a positive future for the Lower Yarra so business, tourism and locals can make the most of this great waterway for years to come.”

Ms Trotman was unavailable for interview.  

A Parks Victoria spokesperson said: “Christine Trotman has considerable board and committee experience and currently serves on the Boards of Parks Victoria and People and Parks Foundation. She is very informed.”

When appointing Ms Trotman to the Parks Victoria Board in 2015, the government said: “Ms Christine Trotman – chief executive officer of Cooinda Hill, a disability support service based in the Latrobe Valley. She has held management and executive roles in health and education, and has tertiary qualifications in nursing, health education, business and accounting.”

In November 2015, the LYRUFDG was unanimous in recommending:

“1. That a single entity be charged with implementing the vision for the Lower Yarra;”

“2. That a new local port be established and the port manager effectively becomes the single entity and it be directed to appoint a management committee.”

“3. The management committee be headed by an independent and influential chair charged with implementing the vision and working with all relevant agencies to generally oversee and coordinate management of all issues pertaining to the development and management of the two rivers.”

The report went on to say: “There was much debate about the degree of autonomy granted to the management committee with the private sector wanting to maximise the autonomy but accepting continued involvement of Parks Victoria as an interim solution.”

Southbank Local News understands that, despite universal acceptance of the need for a single management entity, the formation of the new Lower Yarra River Advisory Committee is the 15th such body to be formed in the last 20 years.

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