Concerned community members, together with Environment Victoria and the Yarra Riverkeeper Association, today gathered outside Richard Wynne’s electorate office to remind the Member for Richmond of his government’s commitment to revive the stressed Yarra River with natural water flows.
The protest was the second in three weeks and follows a recent announcement by the Brumby Government that they are considering taking more water out of the Yarra River for urban use, despite their commitment at the 2006 state election to provide the Yarra with a dedicated 17 billion litres of environmental flows.
Protest organiser and Yarra Champion Mark Aitkin 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 Wynne is very fortunate to have the Yarra River flow through his 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 he must take our concerns about the health of the Yarra River to Parliament.”
Mr Aitkin was joined at today’s action by Murray the Cod, to highlight the distress caused to native fish through habitat loss; mock-paddling in kayaks on the pavement, in recognition of the recreational opportunities that dry up as river flows are depleted; and the Brunswick Rogues Choir who will serenade Minister Wynne with songs about the Yarra.
Today’s campaigners said they hoped Minister Wynne would accept a collection of Go Yarra Flow petition forms to pass on to Premer Brumby, and consider recommendations outlined in the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into Melbourne’s Future Water Supply released this week by the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
Environment Victoria campaigner Verity McLucas said one of the report’s key recommendations was to deliver environmental flows to the Yarra ‘as a matter of priority’.
“Environmental flows keep the river’s waters fresh and full of oxygen, they nourish riverbank vegetation and help ensure fish can breed and migrate. The 17 billion litres 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,” she said.
“This week’s Parliamentary Inquiry further supports the need for water to be returned to the river instead of more being taken out, and highlights that as a city we could be doing much more to conserve water and capture rainfall.”
Yarra Riverkeeper Association spokesperson Rod Ingraham said the combination of low rainfall and continued high water extraction meant that the Yarra River has been flowing at below 10 per cent of its average natural flow.
“Up to 70 percent 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 being taken from the river during these dry times is 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.”