This community aspiration outlined in Communities of the Yarra and its Parklands needs to be underpinned by strong evidence-based science, with cultural, social and economic indicators directly linked to biophysical indicators. This is because healthy land, water and biodiversity within and along the Yarra River and its parklands determine the health and wellbeing of all Victorians who interact with this living system.


A healthy Country is fundamental to the cultural, spiritual, physical and economic wellbeing of Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians. It provides ecosystem services such as clean air, drinking water and improved soil health for food production and the health benefits derived from contact with nature. Biodiversity in parks and reserves provides green and blue spaces for recreation and an escape from the fast pace of Melbourne’s central business district.

This section aims to understand the environmental condition of the Yarra River and its parklands as an integrated whole living entity. It will do this by evaluating the current state of biophysical indicators across each Yarra River reach and providing an overall summary for that indicator.

Each biophysical indicator will be evaluated by applying the SoE Indicator Assessment. This assessment approach is applied consistently across ‘State of’ reporting by the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, Victoria.

Threats and Pressures

The Yarra River corridor is exposed to many threats and pressures including: inappropriate land development along the river bank, invasive pest plants and animals, litter, pollution (including sewerage), stormwater, climate change and population growth. This section explores these issues, where data and information are available.

Threats and pressures

Invasive plants and animals

River ecosystem health

Native animals and riparian vegetation

The Yarra River and its parklands are home for many native species, including the iconic platypus and threatened species such as the helmeted honeyeater and Leadbeater’s possum. It also supports a diverse range of fish, frogs, birds, macroinvertebrates and flora. In the 2017–18 financial year over $5.53 million was invested to improve the environmental health of the Yarra River corridor across all reaches.163 Indicator assessments reported here have been obtained from research and associated metrics that have informed Melbourne Water’s 2018 co-designed catchment program for the Yarra Catchment as part of the Healthy Waterway Strategy (HWS). A description of current state metrics can be accessed online from the HWS assessment. It should be noted that the HWS for the Yarra Catchment has combined the inner city and urban reaches for its assessment, but in the future will align its assessment areas with the YSP.

Wetland and billabong ecosystem health

Estuary ecosystem health

Environmental economic accounts

The estimated annual benefit of the Yarra River corridor from waterway health, recreation and amenity values; cultural and heritage values; and landscape features and values is $730 million. An assessment of environmental- economic accounts for the Central Highlands provides some insights into the economic value of ecosystems for the following sectors: agriculture, forestry, tourism and recreation and water. The evaluation also includes a value for carbon sequestration. The assessment applied the UN SEEA approach. In terms of this report’s geographic scope, the values reported here were extracted and restricted to the Yarra River upper reach. This highlights an opportunity for a full environmental-economic accounts assessment, including cultural ecosystem services, for the whole of the Yarra River and its parklands.

Sustainable Development Goals

There are 34 SDG targets that align with SoY indicators (Table 27). It is important to note that the current list of selected SDG targets may change over time, as the sophistication of the operating framework improves and the narrative becomes more precise. This is intended as the beginning, not the end, of the journey of applying the SDGs to SoY reporting.

For more details, download the full report.