Tag Archives: Yarra River Keeper Association

Restoring our riverbank

AS VALERIE POLLEY discussed in April’s Warrandyte Diary, [Are we at risk of loving the riverbank to death?] the bank of the Yarra River through Warrandyte is in a parlous state.
As one of Warrandyte’s most significant environmental assets and a community treasure, the Main Yarra Trail requires immediate attention to repair structural damage and revive surrounding native plants.
Heavy rainfall has taken a toll on the trail, resulting in significant erosion and the premature loss of several older trees.
But it is not just the weather impacting our beloved river walk.
The impact from events such as the Festival, Market, Park Run, Pottery Expo, and increased foot traffic during the pandemic has seen erosion and treefall, rubbish, and dog waste, creating stress on the environment around the river.
The flooding events that have been happening with monotonous regularity have only exacerbated this impact.
So, from July, Manningham Council says it will begin restoration works.
Following the floods, to mitigate further damage, temporary measures were implemented by Council, allowing the trail to remain accessible to the community.
However, a council statement said the focus has shifted to long-term restoration efforts to ensure the trail’s sustained functionality and environmental value.
Manningham Mayor, Cr Deirdre Diamante, said, “The Manningham Green Wedge Infrastructure Plan has been considered in the design and approach to the restoration to ensure the works are sustainable and sympathetic to the semi-rural character of the area.”
She said that in collaboration with an expert contractor, Manningham Council is dedicated to restoring the Main Yarra Trail to its full potential for the community’s enjoyment for years to come.

Environmental outcomes

Yarra Riverkeeper Charlotte Sterrett told the Diary the Riverkeeper Association had not been consulted about these works but said any works along the Yarra Trail should not only improve the amenity of the area but lead to a net gain for the river and her parklands.
“This means that the Yarra, Birrarung should benefit ecologically from any works undertaken – it can’t be only about reducing negative impacts from human and dog traffic.”
She said exposed roots, eroded soil, and damage to the vegetation along the Yarra, Birrarung is evidence that we need to better balance people’s needs with the needs of the river.
“Any works should lead to better outcomes for the river and her critters.
“It’s time to recognise that she has rights too.”

Council’s plan

Cr Diamante said restoration activities would include levelling the trail rock bed, adding rocks, weed removal, and additional planting along most of the trail.
She said some sections might require more extensive structural work, such as cement stabilisation underneath the trail and the construction of a retaining wall to prevent further erosion near Police Street.
Enhancements are also planned for the trail at the carpark on the public toilet side of Warrandyte Bridge.
Upgrades to the drainage infrastructure will mitigate stormwater flooding, while the installation of a new concrete shared path will improve accessibility for wheelchairs, cyclists, prams, and pedestrians around the Warrandyte Bridge car park.
The trail restoration works will begin in July 2023, with an anticipated completion date toward the end of this year.
While small sections of the trail will be temporarily closed during construction, detour signage will be prominently displayed to ensure minimal disruption and to allow the community to continue enjoying the trail.

Summary of works along the Main Yarra Trail

All sections: Weeding invasive species and planting natives to encourage new growth.
Path to be refreshed with new toppings and graded to support better drainage.
Section 1 – Everard Drive to Police Street: This section of the trail will be levelled out with rock and weeded, with planting to encourage new growth.
Stiggant Street Carpark and Police Street Carpark will also get minor drainage upgrades, including new drainage pits.
Section 2 Police Street to 81 Yarra Street: This section of the trail has experienced severe erosion.
Council may install a retaining wall at this location to prevent further erosion, ensuring the path can be used in the future.
Section 3 – 83 to 119 Yarra Street: This section of the trail will be stabilised with a cement base and covered with rock to visually blend into the rest of the trail.
The cement stabilisation will prevent severe erosion at this section of the trail to ensure it is always usable.
Section 4: – “The Beach” adjacent to 141 Yarra Street and Webb Street Carpark: The lower path will not be touched.
The upper path will be stabilised.
Section 5 – 141 to 177 Yarra Street: This section of the trail will be levelled out with rock and weeded, with planting to encourage new growth.
Council will also undertake extensive weeding and planting in the Rainwater Garden opposite 177 Yarra Street so the plants in the garden do a more effective job of cleaning incoming stormwater and reducing unnecessary pollution of the waterways.
Section 6 – 183 Yarra Street to the bridge: This section of the trail will be stabilised with a cement base and covered with rock to visually blend into the rest of the trail.
The cement stabilisation will prevent severe erosion at this section of the trail and reduce water ponding in the area.
Section 7 – The carpark on the public toilet side of the bridge: Council will be doing a range of works at this location, including:
Upgrading the drains in the carpark to reduce stormwater flooding in the area.
Removing the gate and adding bollards for better pedestrian access.
Fixing any damaged structures, including the memorial.
Stabilising the trail with a cement base covered with rock to visually blend into the rest of the trail.
Replacing the existing asphalt path with a new concrete shared path, enhancing accessibility for wheelchairs, cyclists, and pedestrians between the carpark and the Main Yarra Trail.
The design of the shared path will be sympathetic to the surrounding environment.
Section 8 – 284 Yarra Street to Tills Drive: Erosion in this section has reached an unacceptable level.
To address this issue, a boardwalk will be installed beneath the oak tree, and in certain areas, the width of the trail path will be expanded from 1.5 to 2+ metres.
These improvements will enable easier access for users travelling to and from Tills Drive, the Stonehouse, and onward to other parts of Warrandyte State Park.
This will provide a better trail connection to and from Warrandyte State Park.
River health
Cr Diamante said that the trail is at great risk of long-term damage due to the heavy and constant rainfall last year.
“We’re undertaking these essential maintenance works now to preserve the trailÕs character and ensure it can continue to be used by future generations.
“Not doing so would pose a significant risk to the long-term viability of the trail,Ó Cr Diamante said.
Ms Sterrett said we all need to play our part in protecting the Yarra, Birrarung and her parklands, “including councils who have signed up to the Yarra Strategic Plan (Burndap Birrarung burndap umarkoo).
“The Yarra, Birrarung is a living entity and deserves to be restored to full health.
“Any works along the river should contribute to her health.
“For too long, we have taken nature for granted and seen her as a resource for personal pleasure and enjoyment.”
She said the Riverkeeper Association expects that the works undertaken by Manningham Council benefit the river “and not just visitors and their dogs”.
“For what is good for the Yarra is good for all,” Ms Sterrett said.
For further details visit manningham.vic.gov.au/news/main-yarra-trail-restoration.

Meet our new Yarra Riverkeeper

Photo: Bill McAuley

WHEN CHARLOTTE Sterrett came to Australia at the age of 19, she fell in love with the Yarra River.
She has now been appointed its keeper.
Melbourne’s “upside-down river” is a unique ecosystem that brings nature, culture, and people together.
It wends its way 242 kilometres from near Mt Baw Baw, through the Yarra Valley and finishes in the Port Phillip Bay.
It is an important part of Warrandyte’s identity.
This is why the Diary is delighted that Warrandyte resident, Charlotte takes up her mantle as Melbourne’s third Yarra Riverkeeper in January.
Working with the Yarra Riverkeepers Association (YRKA), she will continue her lifelong work as an advocate for the environment. Warrandyte Diary caught up with Charlotte following the announcement of her appointment.

WD: Firstly, what is a Riverkeeper?
CS:
The Riverkeeper, along with the Birrarung Council is there to be a voice for the Birrarung — a voice for the Yarra — to tell the story of the river from source to sea.
There are lots of stories there, historical stories, stories of now, stories of people and all the creatures.
And to educate people about the problems facing the Birrarung, which we know are litter, pollution from chemical waste, unsustainable development, water flow, and climate change — to educate people about those issues but also work together on the solutions.
There are lots of people who use the river and are involved with the river. There are 16 Councils that the river runs through, plus Melbourne Water. But this role is very much about educating people about those problems and working on the solutions together.
The YRKA also does a lot of the clean-up work as well as work with community groups to clean up the river.
The Association has done a lot of research on the types of plastic pollution — polystyrene balls being the number one — and then there are about eight regeneration sites along the river, including Westerfolds, where YRKA does that regeneration work. So, my role as Riverkeeper is to really talk about all the things that the organisation is doing, and connect people with the river, whether they are a politician or local community group, school, or local council.
I will be the third Yarra Riverkeeper, Ian Penrose was the inaugural one, he used to live on my street, and started the Yarra Riverkeepers Association as a volunteer group, and then Andrew Kelly took over about six years ago. YRKA CEO Warwick Leeson is also from Warrandyte, he became involved a couple of years after it started. Warrandyte has got some amazing people.

WD: Why is the Yarra special to you?
CS:
When I first came to Australia I found the Australian environment very different to the English countryside. When I first came to Warrandyte, doing some volunteer work with a local Landcare group, it was on Hamilton Road near where I live now, I remember seeing the river and it was so different, the colours, the smells, the trees, just the natural environment was so different, so captivating.
Nature sometimes does this — it makes you feel a different way, it makes you feel calm and peaceful and relaxed, I love being surrounded by nature, and I remember thinking at the time I really wanted to live here. I love being on the river canoeing, I do that quite a lot, and we are very fortunate in Warrandyte that we can swim in the river, which you don’t get to do farther downstream.
You can be at the waterhole down near the end of our street, you feel like you are really out in the bush in a big way, and you can really feel why the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people see the river as part of their identity.
I would love for other people to feel that way too, that they really see the river as part of their identity.

WD: What was your journey to this point?
CS: I used to work in outdoor education for schools and that was part of the journey, I used to take kids out into the bush canoeing, rafting, lots of bushwalking, some rock climbing, so I have always liked nature.
I then worked with Oxfam in southern Africa, and very soon after that, I became interested in Climate Change. I have been working in International Development for about 17 years.
I have worked in about 20 countries worldwide including lots of countries in the Pacific.
My most recent role was working with World Vision providing support to countries that are trying to adapt to Climate Change.
Locally, I have been with Warrandyte Climate Action Now (Warrandyte CAN), and Osborne Peninsular Landcare Group.
This role helps me combine all these roles that I love – working on environmental issues, working with local communities, working on solutions, and advocating for the right kinds of solutions, that are good for people and the planet.
I guess COVID has shaken things up a bit and I decided I would like to do something more local.
I think being at home has really helped me reconnect with the area and the Yarra has been somewhere that has really helped lots of people, and myself included, to get through the various lockdowns.
I have really come to appreciate it, which is why I want to do this work. We are very lucky in Warrandyte to have the river right there.

WD: What are you looking forward to in this role?
CS: I am excited to learn more about the work that is happening to protect not only the Birrarung but the other waterways that come into the Birrarung, like the Maribyrnong, there is a Riverkeeper for that river too, and a Port Phillip Bay Keeper.
In fact, in Australia, there are about seven waterway keepers and over 300 around the world, so I am really interested to learn about what are the issues that all these people have been working on with their communities.
The river to me is like a living breathing entity, the lifeblood of Melbourne, so it is a real honour to speak for the river.
Since it was announced I was the riverkeeper, people have contacted me out of the blue like a lady up in Millgrove talking about the regeneration work they are doing alongside the river, and Port Phillip Eco Centre spoke to me about the things they are doing at the mouth of the river.
I have worked a lot internationally on some of the international transboundary issues like the Mekong or the Brahmaputra that comes off the Himalayas, and now I get to work on this river, so it doesn’t feel like a job, it is something I would do anyway, so I am very excited about that.
I will be working with the government as well, there is a whole bunch of Yarra River planning controls and a Strategic Plan, including a 50-year Community Vision.
I’ll be working with Government and Melbourne Water to implement that, but also hold them to account.
As well as working with the Birrarung Council and the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Corporation.
I am really excited about working with First Nations people.
I have worked with First Nations groups overseas, so to be able to do that in Melbourne is fantastic.
I look forward to educating people in a way that they learn more about the river and the river’s history — and it is a fascinating history, especially since white man came and really changed it, diverted it, it is a very different river downstream than it used to be.

WD: What can we all do to help the Yarra?
CS: Looking after the river is everyone’s responsibility, I might have the title of the Yarra Riverkeeper, but we are all riverkeepers.
We love the river, we love where we live, and it is our responsibility to look after it.
It is a personal responsibility to treat the river with respect, not dropping litter and not polluting the river, but it is also talking to people about the issues that face the river.
I think we are very lucky in Warrandyte that we have quite a strong community that has been able to keep the character of Warrandyte alive for a long period of time.
But urban development along the river corridor is a big issue, obviously closer to the city we see more of this issue.
Until recently, Warrandyte had septic running into the river, and there are fertilisers running into the river from people’s gardens, and broader issues of Climate Change, and people becoming educated about the impacts of Climate Change on water flow — the river doesn’t have enough flow for it to be fully healthy — so people recognising that and talking to local and state government about those issues.
One thing that has been interesting during COVID was that people have been more connected to their local environment.
It is important that we don’t take these areas of natural beauty for granted.
The Yarra/Birrarung provides 70 per cent of Melbourne’s drinking water, so while people might see their river as being a brown river, they might not realise the catchment provides our drinking water, so we need to protect that.

WD: What is your favourite part of the river?
CS: I have a couple of favourite spots, at the bottom of Osborne Road, just off the path on the right-hand side, just below one of the rapids, where Jumping Creek comes out, you can swim there, depending on the river level, I love going down there.
Not far from there is a beautiful spot with a massive rock that in the morning gets all the sun on it and the whole side lights up with beautiful orange light and it is just glorious.