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Merri River reflection

Council shares in Merri River award

News Article Date: 
Saturday, 30 November 2019

A bold aim of bringing together organisations from within the south-west around the Merri River to improve river health and the community’s connection to the waterway has paid off with the Merri River Alliance recently awarded the River Basin Management Society award for Most Outstanding Waterway Management.  

The Merri Alliance was formed in 2017 to improve one of the Warrnambool and the south-west region’s most valued and well-used rivers. It has brought together agencies, non-government organisations, businesses, industries, developers, angling organisations, local community and Landcare groups, primary producers, schools and Traditional Owners, with the focussed and shared goal of making the Merri River “A healthy river flowing through a network of open spaces and cultural landscapes, providing a range of recreation experiences. A river that is integrated within the city community.”

The Alliance built on the small-scale works which had been undertaken by community groups prior to its formation, understanding that with a larger, combined effort, greater outcomes could be achieved.

Those outcomes were recognised on Friday when the Merri Alliance won the RMBS Award for waterway management.

After initiating many small projects along the Merri River for the last decade, the MAD for the Merri group was overwhelmed with the win, with secretary Karen Wales saying the acknowledgement for the work put in by the group was rewarding.

“The MAD for the Merri had been plugging away with little projects, but to have seen the improvement and action when all the groups and partners within the Alliance have worked together strategically is amazing,” she said.

“To receive the recognition for that work is extraordinary, especially after hearing what all the other nominations in the award category have also been achieving.”

Glenelg Hopkins CMA CEO Adam Bester reiterated the cooperative effort, saying “none of this success would have been possible without that community groundswell of support for the Merri.”

“The success of the Merri Alliance is that is brings together so many partners and organisations and community groups and users of the river under the one umbrella to achieve a common goal.”

“It is the human element of the users of the river, and the local residents, which have really made this project a success – we as agencies can align these types of projects to State and local plans and strategies, but having the support of the non-government organisations, user groups and networks, is what sets this project up for the success it has achieved,” Mr Bester said.

Warrnambool City Council’s Coordinator of Sustainability and Natural Environment, Lauren Schneider, praised the contribution from the Alliance partners.

“The Merri River is such an important part of the Warrnambool landscape and the contribution from all partners of the Merri River Alliance is reflected in the recognition of the award," she said

“The Merri River Alliance has provided an opportunity to strengthen partnerships and work together for the benefit of the environment and the community."

For the recreational fishing community, being able to help give the next generation of recreational anglers and their families the opportunity to fish in healthy waterways in an urban area was a key benefit of being involved.

“This really is a great example of where a whole package project was being delivered, giving outcomes that benefited so many user groups, with strategic planning at a high level,” OzFish South West Chapter’s Shane Lowrey said.

“Having the Alliance which allowed conversations about what everyone was wanting to achieve along the waterways was another major positive.

“So often waterways aren’t in an urban area, but the Merri Alliance is improving a waterway which allows recreational fishers to access a healthy waterway with healthy fish populations right on their doorstep.”


Merri Alliance members: Fishcare Victoria, OzFish SW Chapter, Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Network, Warrnambool City Council, Glenelg Hopkins CMA, Wannon Water, MAD for the Merri, Friends of Platypus Park, Friends of Woolaston Bridge, Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation.


Key Merri Alliance acheivements:

  • 6.6 km of stock exclusion fencing has been erected
  • 18.58Ha of weeds, including willows and poplars have been removed from 5.2 km of the river and replaced with 30,250 native plants.
  • A total of 114 habitat structures and two fishing platforms have been created to boost fish populations and improve angler access.
  • There has been a recorded 89% increase in black bream populations as a result of instream works.
  • Under Australia’s first river crowdfunding project, the Merri project was successful in reaching 153% of its funding goal and 319,548 people to establish fish habitat in the river.
  • Organisations have contributed $1,552,324 direct investment and $214,199 in-kind to the Alliance.
  • Alliance activities have created 29 FTE direct and in-direct jobs, contributed $600,000 in salaries and local business profits and a $1.2 million value add to the economy.
  • The crowdfunding activities instigated the establishment of South West OzFish (consisting of 30 anglers).
  • To date, 1220 people have participated across 50 events on the Merri including members of ‘Southern Way’ and Warrnambool Special Development School and disadvantaged Indigenous youth at the Clontarf Academy.
  • A local Rotary Club and secondary school have taken on maintenance responsibilities and a Friends group regularly host maintenance mornings to ensure longevity of project works.



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