High levels of pollution from urban development and industrial runoff continues to flow into an iconic Melbourne river whilst raw sewerage continues to pour in following heavy rains, according to the latest report.
In a report set to be released, the report by Environmental Justice Australia said complex laws and regulations applying to Melbourne’s Yarra River and not working well, and that whilst industrial pollution no longer pours into the river from businesses such as the former Alphington paper mills or Mobil dock at Coode Island, pollution associated with metals such as zinc, lead and copper were entering the river with runoff from roads and the surrounding built environment whilst overflow the the sewerage system was entering the river at designated emergency points in very high rainfall events notwithstanding that the city’s sewerage system successfully directs sewerage to treatment plants at other times.
Moreover, the task of protecting the river was made more difficult by complex layers of regulation which see no fewer than eleven councils and three agencies – Melbourne Water, Parks Victoria and the Environmental Protection Authority – involved in overseeing its health.
"The Yarra is facing so many development pressures and its management is so fragmented that it's just not a healthy river at the moment," Environmental Justice Australia's advocacy and research director Nicola Rivers is quoted in the article as saying.
"Decisions about the [Yarra] need to consider the whole river and so it can be properly protected and managed from source to mouth."
The latest report comes amid continued uncertainty as to how the new state government intends to act on commitments to curb river pollution.
Prior to its victory in the state’s election last November, the Labour Party had promised to introduce new legislation to guard against inappropriate development on the river’s banks and set up a new trust to standardise planning controls.
However, neither measure has been enacted thus far - Planning Minister Richard Wynne saying it was important to get the legislation right and that it was not rushed.
Yarra Peacekeeper Andrew Kelly said there were a number of cases of overdevelopment on the river’s banks that were impacting water quality.
He says the former Amor paper mill site at Alphington whereby 5,000 residents and 2.500 new houses and apartments were planned is an example of development which would see open space replaced by hard surfaces and thus more water channelled off into the river notwithstanding the existence of appropriate setbacks.
"A third of the site at the moment is trees and grass, and that will be turned into hard surfaces, so what were houses for birds will become houses for people," Kelly said.