07 Nov Bruce Lindsay
Bruce is a lawyer specialising in environmental, planning, and water law. He has been working at EJA since 2012 on law reform projects and litigation across a diverse range of areas, including urban waterways governance, biodiversity protection, indigenous water rights, environmental democracy, and national environmental law reform. Bruce was involved in design of Yarra River policy and legislation.
Special Purpose River Legislation: Higher Standards for Urban Design?
In 2017 the Victorian Parliament passed a dedicated urban river law, the Yarra River Protection (wilip-gin Birrarung murron) Act 2017, the product of a community campaign for stronger protection and recognition for the largest waterway in urban Melbourne. This has occurred alongside examples of special purpose river laws in Western Australia, as well as schemes vesting legal personality in rivers elsewhere around the world. Victoria also has existing laws requiring programs for protection and restoration of waterways and river catchments generally.
Although applying to a river, the Yarra River legislation is primarily a land-use planning law, with a focus on integrated river corridor management. It establishes a discrete, special purpose framework for river protection and restoration. This paper considers key features of the Yarra River legislation, in the context of potential to extend special purpose legislative schemes to other urban waterways, arguing that the intention of this scheme is to establish higher and distinct legal and policy standards for urban planning and design in relation to management of this particular waterway.
While implementation of the Yarra River legislation is currently underway, key tests of its efficacy will be the response of State agencies to the legislative mandate for corridor-wide strategic planning and the influence that distinctive legal and policy standards set under the legislation will have on decisions and actions by urban planning institutions.