Iconic Urban Waterways (Yarra / Barwon / Waterways of the West)

This initiative is implementing action 3.1 in Chapter 3 of Water for Victoria, fulfilling the government's commitment to improve planning arrangements for urban waterways and protect the Yarra River corridor by responding to the Yarra River Protection Ministerial Advisory Committee recommendations.

EC4 Expenditure to date

Protecting the Yarra River and other environmental assets in Melbourne (EC component) - $1,000,000 - -
Yarra River Action Plan – next steps - - $1,250,000 -
Next steps in reimagining Melbourne iconic waterways - - -$1,726,000

*This initiative is partially funded by the Environmental Contribution, with additional funding provided by other State Government funding sources.


The Yarra River Action Plan articulates a whole of government commitment to the protection and improvement of the Yarra (Birrarung) River as one living and integrated entity. Some of these actions are now embedded in the Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung murron) Act 2017.

The Minister for Water was appointed as lead Minister to administer the new Act effective 1 July 2018, given the significance of the Yarra River and its importance to Melbourne’s water and catchments.

Eight of the 30 actions in the Yarra River Action Plan have been completed, and 17 are underway.

Some of the key actions progressed to date include:

  • Declaration of Yarra River land came into effect in February 2018, providing a common identity for treatment of the Yarra River corridor as part of one living and integrated natural entity of state significance, and delivery of the Government’s commitment outlined in Plan Melbourne 2017-2050 (Action 61).
  • The establishment of the Birrarung Council in August 2018 as the first independent voice of the Yarra River, Birrarung as prescribed by the Act. This Council provides independent advice to the Minister on the protection of Yarra River land and the development and implementation of the Yarra Strategic Plan.
  • The launch of the Yarra River 50 Year Community Vision in May 2018. It is the first of its kind for an urban waterway in Australia and outlines the community’s long-term aspirations for the river corridor that will be given effect by the Yarra Strategic Plan as prescribed by the Act.
  • Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation’s launched their Birrarung Water Policy – Nhanbu narrun ba ngargunin twarn Birrarung – Ancient Spirit and Lore of the Yarra in May 2018, developed to inform the Yarra Strategic Plan.
  • Publication of the Progress Report on the Yarra Strategic Plan and the Yarra Strategic Plan Map Book in October 2018. The progress report captured the community directions for identifying areas of protection, with the map book reporting the current state of the Yarra corridor. This is the first time this information has been compiled and made publicly available.
  • Extensive public consultation on a draft Yarra Strategic Plan in early 2020 and a Panel and six-day digital Public Hearings process in May-June 2020. The independent Panel’s report has been submitted to the Minister for Water. Feedback from consultation and the Panel recommendations will be considered in finalising the Yarra Strategic Plan.
    • 138 submissions were received on the ‘Help Us Shape the Yarra Strategic Plan’ page on the Engage Victoria site with over 381 issues raised.
    • Public consultation activities included over 300 conversations at ‘pop up’ events, 2,000 postcards to participants at the Maribyrnong Inflatable Regatta, three day-long focus groups, interviews with members of the Community Assembly, dedicated engagement with Committees of Management along the river.
  • Identification of priority projects representing transformative, on the ground actions for the protection and improvement of Yarra River land.

Waterways of the West and Barwon (Barre Warre Yulluk) River Action Plans

In 2018, Ministerial Advisory Committees were set up for the:

  • Waterways of the West (Werribee (Wirribi Yaluk), Maribyrnong (Mirrangbamurn) catchments and the Moonee Ponds (Moonee Moonee) sub-catchment
  • Barwon River (Barre Warre Yulluk)

The Ministerial Advisory Committees’ have both provided recommendations to government on how to better protect the waterways and their parklands and ensure that Traditional Owner and the community voices were heard in waterway management decisions in the future.

The Wurundjeri Woi wurrung and Wadawurrung Traditional Owners self-determined their involvement, which included:

  • membership of the Ministerial Advisory Committees
  • sharing cultural knowledge through professional services for the Ministerial Advisory Committees and community cultural awareness (such as Welcome to Country and Walks on Country) and providing significant contributions to the Committee reports
  • delivery of Cultural Values Projects along waterways.

Long-term Community Visions were developed to highlight the aspirations of the community in Melbourne’s West and the Barwon catchment for the future values and interactions with the waterways. For the Waterways of the West, a deliberative community engagement approach was used that  included a Community Assembly and targeted consultation with schools and culturally and linguistically diverse communities of the west.

The Ministerial Advisory Committee Discussion Papers for both Action Plans were released in October 2019 for public consultation.

The Ministerial Advisory Committees delivered their recommendation reports to Government, in February 2020.  The Victorian Government has been developing a Waterways of the West Action Plan and a Barwon River Action Plan. These will respond to the recommendations of the committees.

Page last updated: 27/11/20