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Richard Wynne – Yarra River custodian

05 May 2016

Richard Wynne – Yarra River custodian Image

By Shane Scanlan

Planning Minister Richard Wynne is a friend of the Yarra River.

He recently weathered a storm of outrage when he knocked six storeys off the so-called Cbus “pantscraper” at 447 Collins St because of overshadowing.

The City of Melbourne led the protest against him.  The council has been consistently prepared to sacrifice Southbank overshadowing in return for CBD open space.

Former planning minister Matthew Guy too earlier knocked back a taller Cbus proposal for the site, which would have significantly overshadowed Southbank.  When Cbus returned with a proposal that just touched the south bank, everyone was rejoicing.  Everyone, it seems, except Mr Wynne.

In a recent interview with Southbank Local News, Mr Wynne revealed why he is so passionate about protecting the river.

“We use the Yarra River,” he said.  “My boys and I have got a boat and we tootle up there.  We get up as far as we can, depending on how the tide is going.  So, we enjoy the Yarra. It’s a beautiful asset for our city.  It’s a fundamental part of our city and you’ve got to protect it.”

“That’s also why we’re putting in these built-form controls – to protect the river.

The river’s a really important part of our city and for too long we turned our back on it.”

“Now that we acknowledge the Yarra River and its importance, it’s my job to be a bit of a custodian for it.”

“When you’re on your boat, going up the Yarra River, you get a complete perspective on the city.  It’s quite extraordinary. It’s amazing.  You get this different view of how a city works and, particularly, how the built form of the city interacts with the river.”

“So, yes, I guess that drives me a bit,” he said.

Apart from a personal connection, the minister points out the planning scheme recommends against overshadowing.

“The planning scheme speaks to this question,” he said.  “The Melbourne Planning Scheme is really clear about overshadowing of the river. And it ought to be avoided.”

“Whilst it is a discretionary control, it’s not mandatory, I take that seriously and, obviously, with the Cbus development, which, you will recall, a previous Cbus application was knocked off by Matthew Guy on the grounds of really significant overshadowing, and the proposal they put to me did substantially touch the south bank of the river.”

“And it actually overshadowed the bit of Enterprize Park there during lunch and, admittedly only during the winter solstice, but if you want to sit out there and eat your sanger by the river, you were going to be overshadowed by this thing.”

“And you go ‘well that’s not good enough’. So we pulled it down by six levels and we’ve got a good outcome.”

“It now just touches.  And that’s a good thing,” Mr Wynne said.

“I’ve said on any number of occasions that the Yarra River is a really important asset for the city and we ought not overshadow it.”

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