Chris Chesterfield has been involved in river and catchment management in Victoria for over 30 years and has also has recently chaired several Ministerial advisory committees that have led to significant planning and legislative reforms including the Willip-gin Birrarung murron (Yarra River Protection) Act, the first Victorian legislation to be co-titled in Indigenous language. Chris now chairs the Birrarung Council that was set up under that legislation as a bi-cultural ‘voice for the Yarra River’.
The Andrews Labor Government today launched the Yarra Strategic Plan – Burndap Birrarung burndap umarkoo — a landmark plan to protect the iconic Birrarung — the Yarra River. The plan represents a partnership with Traditional Owners − the Bunurong and Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung − and is underpinned by legislation, a 50-year community vision and the establishment of the Birrarung Council in 2018, which consists of Traditional Owners and community representatives to oversee the plan.
“ The Yarra River is valued and appreciated as much for the vegetation and parkland that dominate its corridor as for the presence of the waterbody itself ”
More than 2,500 Victorians contributed to the vision of managing and protecting the Yarra River and its parklands as one living and integrated entity. This new approach will protect the river from the challenges of rapid population growth and climate change. The plan brings together 15 state and local agencies who all have a role in managing the Yarra River corridor. This collaborative approach is reflected in the name Burndap Birrarung burndap umarkoo – which means “what is good for the Yarra is good for all”. The plan – which builds on the Labor Government’s landmark Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung murron) Act 2017 − sets out 40 actions reflecting community values, including expanding parklands and habitat restoration, and revegetation works to increase native fish populations.
The plan also looks at increasing access to berthing sites along the inner city reaches for tourism and enhancing Aboriginal cultural values and heritage values through interpretive signs and education. The Government has already delivered water to the Bolin Bolin Billabong and other wetlands in the Yarra Flats parklands and has invested $2.7 million towards initiatives including better stormwater management, reinstating billabongs at Yering and trialing floating wetlands, ensuring clean waters and thriving green spaces.
The plan contains a land use framework that will work with permanent planning controls that include mandatory height limits along the river between Richmond and Warrandyte and a minimum mandatory setback of 30 metres.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Water Lisa Neville “This plan is the result of four years of consultation and development and will ensure the Yarra continues to be a place for people to connect with nature and each other for generations to come.” “The Yarra River has an important place in the hearts of Victorians and Burndap Birrarung burndap umarkoo delivers tangible actions that will keep the river and parklands alive for the benefit of everyone.” Quote attributable to Minister for Planning Richard Wynne “The Birrarung is central to our thriving city. This plan puts the river’s interests and the community’s vision at the heart of future planning decisions.” Quote attributable to Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio “The plan will ensure our beautiful Yarra River remains protected with plenty of open space for Victorians to enjoy.”
Evolving partnerships – Launch of the Wurundjeri Water Policy
As Traditional Owners the Wurundjeri have contributed their unique knowledge and understanding of the river to the development of the Yarra Strategic Plan. Six Wurundjeri Elders introduced the Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung murron) Act 2017 into the Victorian Parliament in September 2017. The Act is one of the first in Australia to include Traditional Owner language in its body. The Act establishes the Birrarung Council to act as a voice for the Yarra. The Council includes three Wurundjeri Elders. Wurundjeri Elders and community have helped inform the development of the Yarra River 50 Year Community Vision by presenting to the Yarra River Community Assembly and attending various engagement events. In May 2018 the Wurundjeri Council launched their Water Policy Nhanbu narrun ba ngargunin twarn Birrarung meaning Ancient Spirit and Lore of the Yarra, with the Ministers for Water, Planning and Environment. The policy outlines the Wurundjeri’s aspirations for the Yarra River and will help shape the draft Yarra Strategic Plan.