Yarra River now a ‘natural entity’ after landmark legislation to boost water conservation

Posted 5 July 2017

Yarra River now a ‘natural entity’ after landmark legislation to boost water conservation

In a bid to boost water conservation, the Yarra River and its associated land have received new protections from a law that identifies and supports it as an integrated natural entity. 

Wurundjeri elders and Minister for Planning Richard Wynne introduced the Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrung murron) Bill 2017 in the Victorian Parliament.

Earlier this year two rivers, one in New Zealand and one in India, received similar protections when they were declared as living entities. 

Wynne said this bill is an Australian first and reflects the ongoing effort to protect natural entities for future enjoyment

“This is about celebrating the rich history of the Yarra River and safeguarding its future for many generations to come,” Wynne said.

The bill combines the knowledge of traditional owners with modern river management expertise, has been co-titled and includes a preamble written in Woi-wurrung in order to permanently include traditional owners in the protection and governance of the waterway.

Minister for Indigenous Affairs Natalie Hutchins said: “The traditional owners have been the protector of the river for thousands of years. For it to be protected in legislation is a real testament to their connection to land, water and the Woi-wurrung language.”

The bill strengthens the management of the Yarra River by developing the Yarra Strategic Plan, which will coordinate the 14 public entities operating along the river’s pathway. 

It will also establish a new statutory body, the Birrarung Council, and requires regular reporting by the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability on the condition of the waterway and its parklands. 

Victorian Minister for Water Lisa Neville said the government looks forward to managing the iconic waterway sustainably into the future. 

“The Yarra River is the heartbeat of Melbourne,” Neville said.  

“With the right management in place, we can manage our most cherished waterway properly.”