In the 2016/17 financial year Melbourne Water celebrated the 21st birthday of the River Health Incentives Program (RHIP). Since its inception the RHIP has facilitated more than 12,000 environmental projects across Melbourne’s waterways and has worked with over 230 community groups, 38 councils and 4,300 individuals to improve the environmental health of Melbourne’s rivers and creeks.
During that time the projects delivered have seen many tonnes of weeds removed from waterways and more than three million plants and trees planted to restore habitat. The program has also seen over 1,500 kilometres of fencing constructed to prevent livestock damaging sensitive river and creek systems and countless community run events and education programs delivered by schools.
The longevity of the RHIP and the number of projects delivered on ground is a testament to the breadth of the program’s reach and the way it has been embraced by members of the community. Since it’s commencement in 1996 with less than 20 projects completed on private land in the Yarra and Westernport Catchments, the program has expanded to cover all five major catchments in the Port Phillip and Westernport Region, with ~1000 projects now completed each financial year.
The River Health Incentives Program has made an enormous difference in the health of waterways through its 21-year history and Melbourne Water was extremely pleased to celebrate this major milestone with many of those who helped contribute to its success. As part of the celebration of the River Health Incentives Program 21st birthday last year, Melbourne Water launched a number of initiatives designed to promote and celebrate the achievements of the program and all those involved. This paper will discuss the journey of the River Health Incentives Program, lessons learnt along the way and new horizons for the program and its activities.