The Victorian state government has announced it will implement strict planning rules to preserve Melbourne’s bushland on the Yarra River.

Creeping overdevelopment will be curbed by controls which prohibit high-rise projects along the river.

To protect precious green space in the form of parks and bushland, a nine-metre height limit and mandatory setbacks will be applied to projects on the river between Burke Rd, Ivanhoe and Warrandyte.

The Napthine government has also allocated $1 billion of restorative works over a four-year period to improve the health of the city’s rivers and Port Phillip Bay.

“This is a way of preserving liveability and what makes Melbourne the best city in Australia, by protecting its waterways from overdevelopment in ways that other cities in Australia have failed to do,” said Planning Minister Matthew Guy.

According to Guy, the Yarra and Maribyrnong rivers will be protected under the “strictest controls in Australia.”

Urban green space

Urban green space

The announcement coincided with a simultaneous launch by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) of a new online guide showcasing the mental and physical benefits of human contact with the outdoors and the need to protect urban green space.

“We created this guide to expand public awareness about the benefits of green spaces, as well as to urge people to get out and take advantage of the designed and natural landscapes available to them,” said ASLA CEO Nancy Somerville.

The guide focuses on the benefits of both the natural wilderness and community green spaces designed by landscape architects stressing the importance of nature within our communities for offering relief from everyday stress.

The guide includes a plethora of resources reviewed by expert advisors which have been organised into 23 common health issues affecting society. Descriptions of each health issue, including depression, asthma, obesity, chronic stress and autism spectrum disorders, are given along with an explanation of how nature can help and the role of landscape architects in alleviating the problem.

Green spaces and greener neighbourhoods with plenty of walking tracks and bushland access offer more opportunities to exercise in various forms.

Designed green spaces can be therapeutic spaces that provide those with physical or mental issues a place of refuge and healing.

Maribyrnong River

Green space on the Maribyrnong River

The guide stresses the critical role that landscape architects play in designing safe, peaceful, and restorative community green spaces by integrating nature into the built environment.

Also released this week was a publication by Dr. Thomas Astell-Burt claiming that Australians living in neighbourhoods with more green and open spaces have lower rates of Type 2 diabetes.

The findings are consistent with several other recent studies suggesting the increase of parks and other urban green spaces can help prevent chronic health conditions through active lifestyles.

The study showed that those living in areas with at least 40 per cent green space, the rate of Type 2 diabetes was eight percent. Those living in neighbourhoods that were less than 20 per cent green space had a 9.1 per cent rate of the disease.

“Promoting access to nature is an important preventative health tool for addressing the Type 2 diabetes epidemic, regardless of a person’s economic circumstances,” said Astell-Burt. “Investments in green space planning policy and practice are therefore, investments in long-term health.”