The Victorian Government has announced 17 new priority actions to achieve fast results now for a healthier Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay. These actions, which will be led by a government taskforce, complement broader investment in waterway health, stormwater and sewerage infrastructure over the next five years.
The $1 billion plan was announced by Victorian Environment Minister Ryan Smith.
The actions are grouped under four key areas – clearer, more responsive management, preventing pollution and reducing litter, providing accessible information, and support for community action.
The initiatives include developing a new Environment Management Plan for Port Phillip Bay that will help address key risks to the bay’s health such as marine pests and nutrient loads. They also call for a revision of the guidelines for urban stormwater management for new urban development to facilitate and support best practice, the development of innovative approaches to reduce wastewater impacts on waterways including accelerating the sewering of unsewered areas, providing water quality information and advice through a ‘one stop shop’ so Victorians can quickly and easily access up-to-date information, and encouraging Victorians to take action and protect water quality and reduce litter.
This last point includes working with communities to assist them identify and apply for funding from programs such as the Victorian Government’s $20 million Communities for Nature program, Landcare and Coastcare.
With around 80 per cent of Victorians living near or around the Yarra River or Port Phillip Bay, Smith said the benefits of the plan would be widely felt.
“This is a plan that sets out a clear path of investment, action and responsibility to improve the quality of the Yarra and Bay,” he said. “I want people to understand the work that is being done across our state’s waterways from Victoria’s catchments to the coast, and encourage a new sense of environmental citizenship.”
In the 2010-11 financial year it cost more than $4 million to remove 1,310 truckloads from urban waterways. Parks Victoria collects around 500 tonnes per year of rubbish in traps on the Yarra.
The Environment Protection Agency issues around 20,000 litter fines and nearly 10,000 litter offences are reported on average each year.