On Wednesday (20 March 2019), the Commissioner of Environmental Sustainability released the State of the Yarra Report. This report is required under the Yarra River Protection (Willip-gin Birrarung murrain) legislation which was passed unanimously in September 2017. We welcome the report and congratulate the Commissioner, Gillian Sparkes, and the lead writer Dr Rebecca Koss on the quality and clarity of the report. The report clear shows the pressure that the Yarra River is now under from the threats of urbanisation, population expansion (Melbourne is the fourth fastest growing river in the developed world), and a drying climate. The report card at the start of the report shows too many red dots for poor and too many grey dots for the status of the threat to be unknown, and too many being recorded as being derived from insufficient data. We need to know more about our Yarra and we need to act to protect and improve it. We are asking the Andrews’ government to accept these recommendations as a matter of urgency. The report notes that creating connected habitat corridors will protect critical ecosystems, The Riverkeeper will publish in the near future a report addressing this issue and looking at improved stewarding of the river along the lines of the rewilding ideas promoted in the US and UK of core and corridor, with protected cores connected by healthy ecological corridors. Looking at the report card, what stands out glaringly to us is:
- Only two indicators (6%) are assessed as ‘improving’.
- 16 of the 25 environmental health indicators (64%) have been assessed as in a ‘poor’ state with a deteriorating trend.
The Minster is required to respond to this report in 12 months but we are hoping the Minister will act earlier than that as the needs of our river are urgent, and implement the recommendations in particular we note the following as the recommendation reflects what we ask for from government at the last election:
Recommendation 5: That DELWP, in collaboration with Melbourne Water and local governments, extend the geographical scope of the current interim Yarra River Protection Planning Controls (Amendment GC48) along the Yarra River corridor ranging from Warrandyte to the boundary of the Yarra Ranges National Park in support of appropriate urban development.