Urban waterway restoration along the Merri River

The Merri River through Warrnambool is a significant natural asset and is benefitting from a coordinated and concerted approach to improving its environmental and recreational values. Planning and works have focused on improvements within urban growth footprints to reverse damage caused by large-scale clearing of native vegetation along the banks.

With significant changes in land-use along the Merri River, partners realised there is much to be gained by working collaboratively and leveraging towards a common vision and work plan for the Merri River. In 2016, the Merri Alliance was formed, a collective of 10 local community groups and organisations with strong interest to come together to accelerate on- ground environmental works for the Merri River and capitalise on Warrnambool’s growth.

The Alliance capitalises on the cumulative impact of all interest groups working together being much greater than the individual impact of each organisation. It has significantly transformed the Merri River landscape from a largely weed-infested and highly grazed frontage to a green, recreational corridor and an ecologically healthier river.

The project has involved 1,220 people in 50 engagement events since 2016, including fishing clinics, school education programs and tree planting days. Other achievements include:

  • 25 ha of weed control, including willows and poplars removed from 7.3 km of river and replaced with 18,700 native plants.
  • The creation of 114 habitat structures and two fishing platforms to boost native fish populations and improve angler access.
  • Instream monitoring that has also shown that habitat has boosted black bream populations by 89%.

While organisations can deliver their projects independently, there are strong lines of communication via the Alliance that look for opportunities to value add to each other’s projects. The Merri Alliance is built on a culture of generosity and enthusiasm, which has proved to be a model for success.

The project and the Merri Alliance were recognised for their achievements in late 2019 when they won the national River Basin Management Society (RBMS) Award for Most Outstanding Waterway Project.

PartnersFishcare Victoria, OzFish Unlimited, MAD for the Merri, Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation, Friends of Wollaston Bridge, Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Network, Warrnambool City Council, Friends of Platypus Park, Wannon Water, Glenelg Hopkins CMA
InvestorsVictorian Government, (Our Catchments, Our Communities) Funds for Fish crowdfunding campaign, Local business donations
Related StrategiesRegional Riparian Action Plan North of the Merri Structure Plan, Warrnambool 2040 Community Plan