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YRBA

15 Jul 2013

The Yarra River is a great feature of Melbourne, but it is seriously underutilised.

There are many residents and business people who can’t understand why there is not a regular, fast water transportation system on our river. On land, we have some of the best assets to be found anywhere in the world, but on the water we still have a long way to go.

A senior manager from Crown recently commented to us that many of the hotel’s guests from around the world are astounded that they cannot walk out Crown’s front door and catch water transport, as they can do in so many other countries. Even within Australia you only have to look at how easy it is to get around Brisbane on their Rivercats, or around Sydney Harbour on the heavily government subsidised ferries to see how antiquated is this city’s lack of water transportation.

The Yarra River Business Association has been lobbying and researching the problem for many years. The issues are many and varied:

A State Government that doesn’t see the waterway as a way to help ease city congestion;

15 Government agencies with some controlling interest on the Lower Yarra;

No high profile ‘champion’ who could be a major advocate and ambassador for the river;

A speed restriction on the river that precludes quick commuter transit;

A Myki ticketing system that has been designed so that it can’t handle anything that doesn’t run on asphalt or rails; and

The lack of a bold vision by Government and Council to make the river the ‘showpiece’ of Melbourne for visitors and residents.

The YRBA continually advocates for a fleet of modern, fast, low-wake vessels, which would ply Melbourne’s waterfront every 30 minutes between Docklands and Federation Square, and would be fully integrated with Melbourne’s public transport system via the Myki card. No fiddling with coins – just a swipe of the card and you could jump-on, jump-off at probably 3-4 stops between Federation Wharf and New Quay. It would provide a huge boost for commuter transportation and would transform the waterfront experience for visitors.

In the meantime, the world’s most liveable city is stuck with a third-world attitude to its waterway.

Speaking of the third world, the early June deluge of rain demonstrated, yet again, how antiquated Melbourne’s stormwater management system is. The lack of effective entrapment baskets on the major upstream stormwater drains means that tonnes of street rubbish, debris and dog faeces gets swept along the river to pollute and create boating hazards. It gets stuck, often metres-deep, in places like South Wharf and Yarra’s Edge. Visitors’ views from the windows of our tour boats must be more like that of a Bangkok or Manilla waterway, not to mention the stench of decaying matter.

Marina Y.E. at Yarra’s Edge was the first marina in Australia to gain full eco-certification. The marina’s management prides itself on its commitment to the environment, yet on a regular basis they have to spend days and many thousands of dollars to clear-out the waste that should have never got into the river in the first place.

The Bracks Government instigated an across-government stormwater management committee and plan, but it disappeared with the change of government and, once again, it looks like the Lower Yarra should revert to its old title on MMBW maps: ‘Main Drain No. 1’, not good enough Spring Street or Town Hall for the world’s most liveable city.

C’mon Government and Council.

email: exoff@yarrariver.info

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