Yarra legislation and policy statements

This page is a short guide to key legislation and reports on the Yarra River. It complements the review by the Yarra Riverkeeper Association and Environmental Justice Australia Charting the Yarra: A Review of 40 Years of Reports and Plans for the Yarra River Corridor. This webpage is an active document that is being continuously updated, with new links being added as they come to hand. Please email info@yarrariver.org.au if there are items you believe should be added or if you notice any errors.

Where possible we have provided links, though many of the early reports only exist in hard copy. We would appreciate hearing any suggested additions or amendments. The Yarra Valley is the catchment of the Yarra River and its tributaries. The term Yarra Valley is a protected name, in terms of wines, as an Australian Geographic Indication in the Register of Protected Names since 1996.

Relevant state legislation and policy

Yarra River Protection (Willip-gin Birrarung murron) Act 2017

Water Act 1989

Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994

Planning and Environment Act 1987

Heritage Act 1995

Environment Protection Act 1970

City of Melbourne and Docklands Acts (Governance) Act 2006
This Act amended the Environment Protection Act 1970, among other Acts.

National Parks Act 1975
The Act requires management plans for each national and state park, including the four parks on the Yarra.

Heritage Rivers Act 1992
The Act requires that new diversions of water from the Yarra river are only ‘permitted if their volumes, timing, and offtake do not significantly impair fish habitat conditions, canoeing quality, or scenic landscape value’.

Heritage Rivers (Further Protection) Act 2006
The Act was amended to forbid barriers that would impede the passage of water fauna.

State Environment Protection Policy No. W-29 (Waters of the Yarra Rivers and Tributaries)
The State Environment Protection Policies (SEPPs) set the standards for aspects of the environment such as air and water. It is notable that there is a policy particularly for the Yarra. This is a key document in terms of water quality, and the SEPPs are currently under review.

Subdivision Act 1988
‘The purposes of this Act are to:
(a) set out the procedure for the subdivision and consolidation of land, including buildings and airspace, and for the creation, variation or removal of easements or restrictions; and
(b) regulate the management of and dealings with common property and the constitution and operation of bodies corporate.’

If your reading here triggers further research for other legislation, the two links for searching Victorian legislation are:
Victorian Law Today Library

Australasian Legal Information Institute

Victoria’s Litter Strategy 1995

City-wide plans

Report of the Metropolitan Town Planning Commission (1929)
The Plan of General Development was a planning scheme to prevent ‘misuse’ of land and protect property values. It highlighted traffic congestion, the distribution of recreational open space and haphazard intermingling of land uses.The plan also recognised the value of Melbourne’s waterways as an open space network.

Melbourne Metropolitan Planning Scheme (1954)
The Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW) was given responsiibility in 1949 for planning in Melbourne.

P’lanning for Melbourne’s Future’ (1954)
Promotional film made by the MMBW for the release of the 1954 Plan.

Planning Policies for Metropolitan Melbourne (1971)
This plan introduced the concept of ‘Green Wedges’, the largest of which was the Yarra Valley.

Melbourne 2030: Planning for Sustainable Growth (2002)
This report included the following ‘initiative’:
5.7.4 Strengthen current policies and review the adequacy of planning controls relating to the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers to ensure the long-term protection of open space, conservation values – with the first priority being the Yarra River corridor between Punt Road and Burke Road

Melbourne @ 5 million
An update of Melbourne 2030. The update extended the urbaan growth boundary and upgraded the centres of Box Hill, Broadmeadows, Dandenong, Footscray, Frankston and Ringwood to Central Activity Centres which means that it is intended that they will provide similar services and functions as central Melbourne.

Plan Melbourne: Metropolitan Planning Strategy (2014)
This plan had an explicit economic emphasis but did include the following initiative:

4.2.4 In partnership with local governments, stakeholders and water authorities, work toward the protection of Melbourne’s waterways from inappropriate development through the use of mandatory controls similar to those in place for the Yarra and Maribyrnong rivers.
It is not clear what mandatory controls were being referred to.

Plans for the Yarra River and Yarra corridor

The Lower Yarra Concept Plan (Spencer Street Bridge to Punt Road), 1982
Lower Yarra Development Plan (1985)
The Lower Yarra Concept Plan (Punt Road to Dights Falls) (1986)
Lower Yarra River Landscape Guidelines (1988)
(Also the the Age: ‘Give the Yarra a Go’ campaign is worth having a look at as it was influential.)

Middle Yarra Concept Plan – Dights Falls to Burke Road (1990)

Lower Yarra River Urban Design Guidelines (1992)

Middle Yarra Concept Plan – Burke Road to Watsons Creek (1993)

A Review of Policies and Controls for the Yarra River Corridor: Punt Road to Burke Road Bridge – Consultant Report (Department of Sustainability and Environment/Jones and Whitehead/Planisphere, June 2005)
This thorough and detailed plan was commissioned in response to the State Government’s Melbourne 2030 Planning for Sustainable Growth.

Yarra Bend Park Strategy Plan (1999)

Yarra Bend Park Environmental Action Plan (2000)

Yarra Valley Parklands Management Plan (2008)

Warrandyte State Park Management Plan (July 2006)

Yarra Ranges National Park Management Plan (June 2002)

A Cleaner Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay: A Plan of Action (2012)

Healthy Waterways Strategy, Melbourne Water (2013)

Middle Yarra Corridor Study (Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure, 2014)

Melbourne Ferries Background Study (2013)

Upper Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges Regional Strategy Plan (1982)

Council Planning Schemes and environmental reports

City of Banyule

City of Boroondara

City of Boroondara Planning Scheme

Inventory and Assessment of Indigenous Flora and Fauna in Boroondara (2006)

City of Hobsons Bay

City of Manningham

City of Melbourne

City of Port Phillip

City of Stonnington

City of Yarra

Shire of Yarra Ranges

Shire of Baw Baw

Port of Melbourne

Note  Docklands is jointly managed by the City of Melbourne and Places Victoria.

    • Melbourne City Council is the responsible authority for all completed public areas in Docklands and ensuring the area’s prosperity and sustainability, through planning for continued growth in Docklands, while delivering quality community services and programs.
    • Places Victoria (successor to VicUrban) is the Victorian Government’s land development agency, facilitating large-scale urban renewal – for residential and mixed-use purposes.  Places Victoria delivers Docklands in partnership with developers and the City of Melbourne, and is responsible for administering the precinct development agreements.

Outline of planning at Docklands
Docklands Waterways Strategic Plan (2009)

Other council plans and strategies
City of Yarra Built Form Review (Planisphere, 2003)

Yarra Built Form Controls (Planisphere, 2003)

Yarra River Corridor Study, City of Yarra and Planisphere (City of Yarra and Planisphere, March 2015)

Inner Melbourne Action Plan (2005)
This Plan responds to the demands of Melbourne 2030

Walking Plan 2014-17 (City of Melbourne, 2014)

Stonnington Biodiversity Strategy 2013-2017 (Stonnington Council)

Boroondara Urban Biodiversity Strategy 2013-2023 (Boroondara Council, June 2018)

Urban Forest Strategy 2012-2023 (City of Melbourne, 2012)

Total Watermark: City as a Catchment (City of Melbourne, 2014)

Open Space Strategy Planning for Future Growth (City of Melbourne, June 2012)

Port Development Plan 2006-2035

Green Wedge plans



Yarra Ranges

Planning Amendments

Amendment C66, and C75, City of Yarra, (Victoria Street East Precinct, 627 Victoria Street Abbotsford – the old Melbourne Fire Brigade site) – 2004
This was for the Victoria Street East Precinct, 627 Victoria Street Abbotsford, which is now being developed as ‘Green Square’ by Salta Properties. The development was to be higher than the current building on the site at the time and Yarra Council’s Urban Design Frame work specified that the current building height was the maximum for the site. The eventual outcomes of appeals to the Planning Minister and VCAT was that the Minister declared the zone a Priority Development Zone. An online article ‘Sustainability Soap Box’ provides a summary of how events unfolded up to 2010. The article notes that emphasis in the Planning Schemes has been on discretionary planning and that the statutory controls have been very flexible and open to interpretation

Ministerial Amendment VC96, City of Boroondara, October 2012
The Amendment introduced interim mandatory height limits and vegetation controls along the Boroondara River frontage.The Amendment introduced state wide policy amendment which included making the 2005 ‘Review of Policies and Controls for the Yarra River Corridor: Punt Road to Burke Road – Consultant Report’ a reference document in the State Planning Policy Framework.
Reason for the decision.

At the time of the amendment the Planning Minister, Mr Matthew Guy, announced that he had established ‘a staged approach that will see the corridors [of the Yarra and Maribyrnong rivers] further protected across a number of municipalities and clearly outline what can be built in areas that abut the river corridors. The Yarra and Maribyrnong rivers are Melbourne’s two iconic rivers and they deserve protection from inappropriate development. Protection of the river corridors will be a lasting civic legacy for future generations of all Victorians. These planning reform will provide the strongest ever level of planning protection for Melbourne’s two major river corridors by any state government. These reforms are the most significant set of environmental protections within the state planning policy framework since the introduction of the Upper Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges Regional Strategy Plan in 1982.’ Of this staged approach only the Amendment VC96 introducing the interim controls was completed before the next election.

These amendments were made permanent under Amendment C210

Amendment C155, City of Stonnington – DDDO3 Yarra Skyline Area

This amendment was about the skyline west of the Grange Road bridge along Alexandra Boulevard to Punt Road. It updates the Stonnington DDO3 and was signifcant in a broader context as it proposed mandatory height control. The amendment was first put on exhibition in September 2012 it was referred to a Panel which did not support mandatory height controls but did support including the Melbourne High site, which is exempt from the Planning Scheme controls as it belongs to the state government, but the Panel found that the Council should provide guidance for development. The extension is significant in terms of Yarra River planning where many sites are under public control.

Amendments C194/C195 City of Yarra – proposed introduction of mandatory height limits and a formula for setbacks. See Yarra River Corridor Study, City of Yarra and Planisphere (City of Yarra and Planisphere, March 2015)

State Government authorities and agencies with a role in Yarra River planning
Melbourne Water
Among Melbourne’s Water’s many responsibilities that directly relate to the River are flood control management and recommendations on environmental water.

Determination of the Minimum Environmental Water Requirement for the Yarra River 2005


Yarra Valley Water
Yarra Valley Water is the largest of Melbourne’s three water corporations and provides water supply and sanitation services to over 1.7 million people and over 50,000 businesses in the northern and eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority
The Port Phillip and Westernport CMA (PPWCMA) is one of ten regional Catchment Management Authorities. This CMA was established in 2002 as the natural resource management body in the Port Phillip and Western Port region to develop and oversee the implementation of the Regional Catchment Strategy.

Victorian Environmental Water Holder
The Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH) is an independent statutory body responsible for making decisions on the use of Victoria’s environmental water entitlements. VEHW draws up a yearly seasonal watering plan. The Yarra River has a yearly environmental entitlement of 17 gigalitres.

Parks Victoria
Parks Victoria is responsible for Parklands on the River, in particular Yarra Bend, and Upper Yarra Ranges National Parks and Westerfolds Park, and for navigation on the River below Dights Falls and above the Bolte Bridge. Follow the link to a complete list of reports from Parks Victoria on the Yarra.

Metropolitan Planning Authority
The Authority is responsible for the seven growth areas of which only Whittlesea and Mitchell cover any significant part of the Yarra catchment. Key Yarra tributaries in the City of Whittlesea are the headwaters of the Merri and Darebin Creeks, and part of the Plenty River. The authority also has urban renewal responsibilities.

Places Victoria
The Victorian Government’s property development agency. It was formerly called VicUrban, which was, in turn, a rebranding of the Docklands Authority.

Major Projects Victoria
Major Projects Victoria is the government’s in-house project delivery agency. Projects have included Federation Square and the Melbourne Convention Centre.

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) began operations on 1 July 1998, amalgamating 15 boards and tribunals to offer a ‘one-stop shop’ dealing with a range of disputes.
A Supreme Court judge heads VCAT as President. County Court judges serve as Vice Presidents. Applications are heard and determined by Deputy Presidents (appointed on a full time basis), Senior Members and ordinary Members (may be appointed on a full time, part time or sessional basis).

Planning Panels, Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure

Planning panels and committees are appointed to consider and advise on planning proposals and policies.

State Government authorities and agencies: relevant studies, documents and policies

Protecting and Connecting EPBC Species in the Yarra Ranges

Melbourne’s Open Space: the Metropolitan Open Space Plan (Ministry for Planning and Environment, August 1988)

Linking People and Spaces: A Strategy for Melbourne’s Open Space Network (Parks Victoria, 2002)

Two Rivers Traffic Management Plan (Parks Victoria, 2012)
This outlines Parks Victoria’s policies on managing navigation on the River.

Shared Pathways Guidelines (Melbourne Water, 2009)
As so much of the planning in the corridor has focussed first on creating pedestrian and bike pathways along the Yarra and then its waterways into a connected network of paths, and the focus is now on filling in the gaps in those paths, this is a critical reference document.

Guidelines for Development in Flood Prone Areas (Melbourne Water, 2008)

Technical studies on the Yarra (and Port Phillip Bay)

Effect of Water Resource Management on the Yarra River Environment from the Upper Yarra Dam to Warrandyte (Centre of Environmental Applied Hydrology, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Melbourne University for Melbourne Water and Melbourne Parks and Waterways, 1995)

Inventory and Assessment of Indigenous Flora and Fauna in Boroondara (Lorimer, G. for Boroondara City Council 2006)

Current Scientific studies being conducted on the Yarra River (and Port Phillip Bay)

Microplastics Survey by the Port Phillip Baykeeper, in conjunction with the Yarra Riverkeeper
Interim report

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