The Yarra River is considered by many to be a natural icon of Melbourne. The river flows from the rural outskirts of Melbourne, through the sprawling eastern suburbs then through the heart of Melbourne. It is well utilised by a large number of its residents for walking, fishing relaxing in the natural environment and importantly for kayaking and other non-powered water craft. Despite its high use it is recognised by Melbourne Water, Canoeing Victoria, local government and a large number of other stakeholders, that planning of where and how kayakers should enter and exit the river has never been considered over its length. A regional plan for recreational paddling along the Yarra River would encourage a larger diversity of users to access the river safely, and also considers the environmental impacts by reducing the pressure on ecological habitat and river bank erosion.
This paper looks at a project Jacobs completed with Melbourne Water and supporting stakeholders identifying priority access points for non-powered water craft along the river. Through stakeholder workshops and online surveys the project identified the aspirations and needs of stakeholders for access. Priority sites were then determined by rating factors including the complexity of planning and ecological protection zones, the ability to add to existing resources such as toilets, and the breadth of users likely to use the resource. Previous experience in the constructability and design of kayak launches added to our knowledge of when and how access could be constructed. From this a five-year plan for implementation has been determined which provides for the formalisation of access at a number of priority sites at regular intervals along the river, across a number of local government areas.