Concerned local students, together with Environment Victoria and Yarra Riverkeeper Association, today gathered outside Bronwyn Pike’s electorate office to remind the Member for Melbourne of her government’s commitment to revive the stressed Yarra River with environmental water.
Prior to the last state election, the Victorian Government made a proud commitment to provide the Yarra River with a dedicated 17 billion litres of environmental flows as a key action of the 2006 Sustainable Water Strategy.
But local resident and RMIT student Rob Glavich said there was growing community anger that after three long years the Yarra was yet to receive a single drop of the promised water.
“Minister Pike is very fortunate to have the Yarra River flow through her electorate; it’s a great asset for residents like me, as well as businesses and visitors,” he said.
“We were here today to remind the Minister that with such a privilege comes responsibility, and that she must take our concerns about the health of the Yarra River to Parliament.”
Mr Glavich was joined at today’s action by fellow students and river campaigners who will be comforting campaign mascot Murray the Cod, to highlight the distress caused to native fish through habitat loss; and mock-paddling in kayaks on the pavement, in recognition of the recreational opportunities that dry up as river flows are depleted.
“You look at the crisis in the Murray River with the algal blooms and acidification and it’s clear to see what happens when rivers are pushed to the brink. I don’t want to see that happen to our Yarra,” Mr Glavich said.
Today’s campaigners said they hoped Minister Pike would accept a collection of Go Yarra Flow petition forms to pass on to Premer Brumby, along with the report Water Security, Healthy Rivers: Environment Victoria’s Vision for Melbourne.
Environment Victoria campaigner Verity McLucas said the report’s10-point action plan demonstrated how Melbourne’s water needs could be met through better use of stormwater and recycled water and by boosting water efficiency, while delivering promised environmental flows to the Yarra River.
“Environmental flows keep the river’s waters fresh and full of oxygen, they nourish riverbank vegetation and help ensure fish can breed and migrate,” she said.
“The 17 GL of promised environmental water is the minimum that the government’s hand-picked panel of scientists have said the Yarra River needs to be ecologically healthy.”
Yarra Riverkeeper Ian Penrose said the combination of low rainfall and continued high water extraction meant that the Yarra River was now flowing at just 12 per cent of its average natural flow.
“Up to 70 per cent of Melbourne’s water is supplied from the Yarra River’s upper reaches. This provides us with some of the best quality drinking water in the world but the huge amounts still taken from the river during these dry times are endangering the Yarra’s health and the life that it supports,” he said.
“While Melburnians have worked hard to save water at home, none of the saved water has benefited our city’s great river. Not only are the promised flows being withheld, but the river has been raided further with increased water harvesting over the last two very dry summers.”