The City of Melbourne is Australia’s fastest growing city, with the daily population expected to reach 1.4 million by 2036.
As we grow, we are presented with even more opportunities to broaden the way we use the river and its edges. Increasing populations will put additional demands on public space, so sustaining and improving people’s experience of the Yarra River - Birrarung - has never been so important.
The Yarra River - Birrarung Strategy (formerly know as the draft City River Strategy) is a guide for the long term future of the City River Precinct. It's a framework that will be used as an advocacy tool to guide proposals and future developments in the area, preserving and evolving the liveability of the Birrarung.
The strategy refers to the Yarra River by its traditional name Birrarung, which means 'river of mists' in the Boon Wurrung and Woiwurrung languages.
Aspirations for the Birrarung
Banana Alley today and an artistic impression of what it could look like in the future
Study area and conditions today
The study area of the strategy is the inner city reaches of the Birrarung, covering 11kms of diverse river edges and urban settings, as indicated in the map below.
Each point explains the current conditions of the river and the challenges associated.
The particular focus of this strategy is on a ‘place-based’ urban waterways study that provides a multi-layered understanding of the complex urban waterways environment. It considers the landscape and water, urban character and open space, movement and uses and quality of place.
The strategy identifies opportunities to:
foster an understanding of Aboriginal heritage and culture
improve biodiversity and water quality
maximise pedestrian connectivity
enhance amenity of public space
create accessible and integrated civic spaces.
Ultimately, the goal is to significantly raise the quality of the Birrarung environs in the central city stretch to be the centrepiece of Melbourne’s economy, culture and liveability.
The Birrarung will be an inspiring public waterfront that celebrates the rich Aboriginal history of Melbourne, offering a green sanctuary and is a loved place in the hearts of Melbournians.
The three key priorities are:
Embrace Aboriginal culture and heritage
Establish a protocol for on-going collaboration with Traditional Owner groups to help tell the story of the Aboriginal connection to the Birrarung.
Prioritise Northbank | Greenline
Significant improvements are proposed for the Northbank. The Greenline project is an initiative that will catalyse transformation of this area.
Restore the natural landscape
Maximise the environmental contribution of the river, healthy water conditions and urban cooling through riparian greening and urban vegetation.
The governance arrangement of the Birrarung is highly complex and fragmented. There are a diversity of land owners and management for the river is dispersed across state government agencies, local councils and statutory authorities.
The City of Melbourne does not own or independently manage the waterways or banks of the Yarra River, so the transformation of this area is a collective responsibility of all Victorian Government partners and adjoining landowners.
The Birrarung is a significant place of shared Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal history and cultural values, however this narrative is largely absent from the river experience today. We look to better acknowledge and reflect the sites, stories and memories to offer a place of reflection, education and enrichment.
Referencing the richness of the pre-contact landscape and enhancing the ecological values, the River immerses people in nature. The City River, Birrarung, is restored as a healthy water landscape experience.
Melbourne’s river is a defining feature of the city’s identity, consistently presented in promotional imagery. However historically, the City has not fully embraced its waterways, despite the cultural significance and proximity. The river and its banks should be an attractive complement to the central area, offering a diversity of uses and new economies that are welcoming to all.
Rather than just a corridor to swiftly move through, the river becomes an important destination and place to enjoy the journey away from the intensity and rush of the urban centre. Through improved access to and along the waterfront, the river will provide the natural complement to the fast pace of the City and Southbank.
These directions fit into the four key themes, and provide guidance on how the river and its edges should be planned for and managed.
Melbourne Water is developing a 10-year Yarra Strategic Plan which includes a 50-year community-led vision, performance objectives around waterway health, parkland landscape amenity, cultural heritage values and a decision making framework.
The City of Melbourne is represented on the Yarra Collaboration Committee, which advises Melbourne Water on the development of the Yarra Strategic Plan. This strategy will inform and guide Council’s input and, as the Yarra Strategic Plan covers a broader scope (entire 200km of the Birrarung), it will be complementary in terms of offering a more detailed place specific discussion.
The whole of river 50-year Community Vision stated by Melbourne Water as part of the Yarra Strategic Plan is that “Our Yarra, Birrarung, is recognised around the world as an iconic example of a nurturing relationship between a river and its community”.
Once we have collated and analysed all community feedback, a final City River Strategy will be presented for endorsement to the Future Melbourne Committee. Council will use this to advocate and collaborate for progress of priority projects.
The City of Melbourne respectfully acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land we govern, the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung and Bunurong Boon Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin and pays respect to their Elders past, present and emerging. We acknowledge and honour the unbroken spiritual, cultural and political connection the Wurundjeri, Bunurong, Dja Dja Wurrung, Taungurung and Wadawurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin have to this unique place for more than 2000 generations. We are committed to our reconciliation journey, because at its heart, reconciliation is about strengthening relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples, for the benefit of all Victorians.
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Updated August 2022
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