Federal Labor is alarmed by reports today that 50 tonnes of litter is being hauled out of the Yarra River annually. When our urban rivers are polluted it directly damages the local environment, undermines what is a key site for local recreation and provides a pathway for pollution to go straight out to the oceans.
A Shorten Labor Government will restore urban rivers to health – with a $200 million investment to ensure all Australians can benefit from the natural beauty of our waterways.
For too long, our rivers, creeks and wetlands have been treated like storm water drains, ending up polluted, dirty and littered with shopping trolleys rather than being safe spaces for families, kids and school groups to visit.

Labor will engage state and local governments, local councils, community groups and local environmental organisations to bring urban waterways and habitat corridors back to health.
Labor’s $200 million investment will unlock grant funding for projects to clean up our rivers including:

  • Building wetlands to capture and clean and filter stormwater.

  • Revegetation and tree planting along corridors.

  • Citizen science and education programs along creeks and corridors, including bush kinder.

  • Bird boxes and waste capture.

  • Employment of indigenous rangers.

  • Turning urban waterways back in to creeks and rivers again through changing hard surfaces back to natural surfaces (cement turned to river banks).

A large amount of the ocean plastics which are causing extraordinary damage to marine life and seabirds come directly from urban rivers. Labor’s commitment to cleaning up urban rivers is part of a broader strategy to restore our oceans to health, including restoring Australia’s marine parks.
Labor has committed to undoing the massive cuts to Australia’s Marine Parks. Our environment is buckling from the pressure of climate change, pollution, waste and destruction of natural areas.

The Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government have consistently failed to provide federal environment programs that adequately address the urgent need for urban river rehabilitation.
Only Labor is serious about protecting the environment and making sure it’s there for future generations to enjoy – action on climate change, investing in the environment, and maintaining Australia’s status as the “great outdoors”.

The Victorian State Government is taking steps to better protect the Yarra through actions like establishing the Birrarung Council. Labor’s urban rivers policy will complement this work.

Labor’s National Urban Rivers, Corridors and Marine Parks policy will form part of a comprehensive platform for a healthier environment in our cities and across Australia. Labor will have further announcements on how we will tackle the issue of ocean plastics in the lead up to the election.


Tony Burke