Planning: Yarra River
On Monday, 5 November, I went on a guided tour of the Yarra River and received an important briefing on current planning issues affecting the river by Ian Penrose of the Yarra Riverkeeper Association. The iconic Yarra River is integral to Melbourne. The river provides about 70 per cent of our drinking water and is home to hundreds of different plants and animals. The Yarra has an important history which must be preserved, for it forms a unique part of Melbourne’s identity. An opinion piece in the Age newspaper of 14 October describes the Yarra in these terms:
- It was a life source for the original inhabitants of this region, the Wurundjeri tribe, for thousands of years. The eyes of white explorers were first cast upon it in 1803, and 32 years later John Batman chose a spot on the Yarra’s banks and proclaimed it would make ‘the place for a village’.
- How that village has grown.
The Yarra is part of not only Melbourne’s historical, natural and physical landscape but also our social landscape. The north-south divide has become an important demarcation for differences in affluence and lifestyle preference. An article in the Age newspaper of 5 February 2012 titled ‘A city divided’, with the subheading ‘Which side of the Yarra you live on speaks volumes – or does it?’, takes a light-hearted look at how where you reside relative to the river can make a big difference. North-south differences aside, the Yarra unites communities for it is, to use a phrase used by T. S. Eliot, ‘within us’.
However, the Yarra is at risk from a clear and present danger: inappropriate development. The government’s recent announcements, including height and environment controls, designed to safeguard the Yarra are a welcome step.
However, given that the Yarra flows through several local government jurisdictions, an overall coordinated vision is required to protect the Yarra’s beauty for generations to come.
As Joni Mitchell once sang, ‘They paved paradise and put up a parking lot’. We should take great care to protect and preserve the health and character of the iconic Yarra River.