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“We’ve turned our back for too long” - river strategy released

10 Dec 2019

“We’ve turned our back for too long” - river strategy released Image

By David Schout

The city section of the Yarra River would “finally get the attention it deserves” under a 15-year City of Melbourne plan to revitalise the prominent waterway’s banks and promenades.

In a move that garnered widespread support from community, business and maritime groups, the Yarra River - Birrarung Strategy aims to turn the city section of the river into a “world class urban riverfront.”

A 66-page document presented to councillors on December 3 outlined a plan that would celebrate Aboriginal culture, maritime heritage, environmental quality and local character along the city’s waterway.

The document notes that in recent decades, the river has “evolved from a working industrial waterfront to a vibrant recreational area” but that the river’s potential “remains unrealised.”

More specifically, the strategy includes plans to introduce new walkways, floating green space, bars and cafes, while remaining open to the idea of a floating swimming pool.

In particular, this represented a shift from the draft plan earlier this year, which did not include the possibility of a swimming area.

Not-for-profit group Yarra Pools tweeted its pleasure at the result: “a swimmable Yarra is now one step closer.”

A three-month community consultation period earlier this year framed the strategy, where opinions were canvassed online, in-person along the river and at ideas forums.

Nine in 10 people supported the direction of strategy, including Southbank Residents’ Association (SRA) president Tony Penna.

“The Yarra River is a defining part of Southbank and it plays an integral role with its connection to the residents,” he said.

“Yet the river and what it offers has often been an overlooked asset that has always had so much potential.”

Mr Penna said that the strategy might ensure the river “finally gets the attention it deserves,” which was reinforced by Lord Mayor Sally Capp.

“Absolutely we’ve turned our back on this river for far too long and it should be something that is central to the city,” Cr Capp said.

Planning chair Cr Nicholas Reece said, “I think we all agree Melbourne has not made enough of the Yarra River Birrarung and tonight we’re really drawing a line in the sand,” he said.

“Going forward, we’ve got a plan, we really want to elevate the importance of our river to our town.”

Birrarung is the traditional name of the Yarra River, meaning “river of mists” in the Boon Wurrung and Woiwurrung languages.

The council’s original plan was titled the City River Strategy, but was later changed to reflect this name.

In September, Southbank Local News reported a push from some parties to rename the river the Birrarung.

The council does not own or independently manage the river’s promenades and any plans to revitalise these areas, such as Banana Alley Vaults (owned by VicTrack), would be done in conjunction with land owners and the state government.

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