Merri Creek Management Committee

Chapter 5.2 Management Coordination

Relevant Port Phillip & Western Port Regional Catchment Strategy objectives

PO1 Enhance regional planning, coordination, monitoring and reporting

PO2 Increase the capacity and participation of people and organisations in catchment management

Relevant RCS Targets

PT2 All Victorian government agencies with key roles in catchment management to be directly implementing the RCS through their annual works programs by 2006

PT3 At least half the regions 38 Councils to have formally adopted the RCS as a reference document by 2008, reflecting relevant sections of it appropriately in their planning schemes and/or implementing relevant actions through their annual programs

PT5 Maintain or increase the number and geographic coverage of community groups participating in catchment management in the region and increase the active membership of community groups by 20 per cent (from 2001 levels) by 2008.


History of Coordination and Evolution of MCMC

Merri Creek has experienced a long history of cooperative management coordination.  In 1976, the Merri Creek Coordinating Committee (MCCC) was created to formalise a relationship between local government, State sector agencies and the community to protect and enhance the creek and its environs.  Over the thirteen years of its existence, the MCCC had representation from eight Councils along Merri Creek, as well as the MMBW and numerous local community groups.  It was an unincorporated association which acted as an advisory committee to Councils and State agencies.  The MCCC neither employed staff, nor undertook works by itself.  Councils and State agencies remained the vehicle through which waterway and open space improvements were carried out. 

This type of cooperation delivered some significant benefits.  For example, in the early 1980s funds were obtained through the efforts of the MCCC for a study into the development of a Merri Creek Path.  This provided the basis for Council application to Federal labour market programs of the mid 1980s for much of the paths construction and associated revegetation works.  The construction of the Merri Path opened up community access to the waterway and provided a focus for continuing improvement of the streams environs.

The record of achievement which the MCCC had established by the mid-1980s, was in part responsible for the attraction of further funding from external sources[289].  One such source of funding was the Australian Bicentennial Program.  Commencing in 1986, the Program allocated $1m for Merri Creek to be administered through the MMBW.  This fund provided contributions to a host of initiatives including path construction, bridge crossings and a small amount of land acquisition assistance.  It also provided the means by which a program of revegetation works were conducted through a specialist works crew on lands owned by Councils and the MMBW across four municipalities.  This model of a specialist works crew was to later provide impetus for the development of a similar, more permanent entity through a new management committee structure the Merri Creek Management Committee.

The Ernst & Whinney Review

A key step in the evolution of this new structure was the Bicentennial Programs funding of a review of management arrangements for Merri Creek during 1987/8.  This review was carried out by independent consultants, Ernst and Whinney Services.  Their recommendation was that a new organisation, to be known as the Merri Creek Management Committee (MCMC), be brought into existence with membership from the then eight Councils, MMBW, the then Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands (DCFL) and a new Friends of Merri Creek group representing the community sector.

The report[290] cited five problem areas which formed a basis for recommending a change from the structure provided by the MCCC. The problems were:

  • the need for a more formal mechanism (beyond that of the MCCCs information exchange function) able to achieve coordinated regional planning, development and maintenance of the waterways open space;
  • the need to replace a volunteer-dependent organisation with one which was better resourced and more sustainable - the impetus for the MCCCs activities and functioning had come almost entirely from the community sector;
  • the need for a greater commitment to maintenance of capital works along the waterway and its open space (especially revegetation works);
  • the need for provision of specialist additional skills in both planning and creek maintenance and development activities; and
  • the need to provide greater forward planning as well as other planning controls to ensure the protection and development of the waterways open space.

As a result of the reports recommendations, the MCMC would, on behalf of member groups, employ staff to carry out activities deemed essential by the review. Specialist vegetation management works and open space development works, negotiated with, and part funded by, the member Councils were the primary area of activity of the new MCMC - certainly the vast majority of the organisations funds were to be initially directed to those ends. 

The review emphasised that these works were in no way intended to replace those undertaken by Councils along the creek.  Instead, they were to be additional to those undertaken by Councils and provide much needed expertise in vegetation management from which Council work forces might derive benefit through provision of training generated by MCMC (Ernst and Whinney Services, 1988). 

In addition, the MCMC, through the creation of the Managers position, would make a significant contribution to the preparation of the Merri Creek Concept Plan and other planning matters, as well as servicing other needs generated by the work of the committee.

A key element in enticing Councils to support the MCMC concept was the continuation of subsidised funding of waterway and open space works on a similar basis to labour market programs and the Bicentennial fund of the mid to late 1980s.  To achieve this, the MMBW guaranteed funding of the MCMC for an initial three year period.  Other State sector funds were contributed through grants from DCFL under their Urban Nature Conservation Program.

Formation of MCMC

The MCMC was brought into existence as an incorporated association in 1989.  It had no statutory powers and acted as an advisory body to its member organisations.

The MCMC has continued as an incorporated association since 1989, with the retention of its core membership, apart from the Department of Natural Resources and Environment which ceased to be a member in 1996 and Melbourne Water which ceased to be a member in December 2000.  During the mid-1990s, the MCMC was able to access significant amounts of Federal labour market program funding (especially JobSkills), which added considerable value to Council contributions.  The JobSkills program ceased in 1996.

A draft report reviewing the MCMCs operation was prepared by the MCMC in 1995 following consultation with member organisations, but was never adopted by the Committee.  The review responded to the introduction by the State Government of compulsory competitive tendering for municipalities, and investigated setting MCMC up as a not-for-profit company.  The report was not adopted as it was considered neither necessary nor desirable to make this change.

Northern Waterways Review

The Northern Waterways Review[291] sought to investigate the coordinating of planning and management of waterway related matters across four northern waterways - Moonee Ponds, Merri, Darebin and Plenty (Minutes of Northern Waterways Review Meeting No. 1, April, 1996).  Some further assessment of the MCMC was conducted for this review.

The review was unable to achieve the development of a common position between Melbourne Water and Councils over the scope of waterway management coordination structures.  Melbourne Water supported an exclusive regional approach across the four waterways of the study area, while Councils tended to support more locally based organisations, while also expressing some interest in potential benefits of regionalism. 

As a result of the lack of agreement, the reviews recommendations are accorded no formal status by Melbourne Water but are nonetheless informative.  The four recommendations relevant for the Merri catchment from the Northern Waterways Review were:

  • The development of four separate waterway coordinating bodies to undertake on-ground works and to coordinate the efforts of local people, councils and local works undertaken by public bodies. (i.e. MCMC to remain)
  • Broaden the focus of the local waterway coordination bodies to the whole catchment over time and as resources permit.  This particularly applies to Darebin Creek and Moonee Ponds Creek.
  • Establishment of a regional body and ensuring representation of the local waterway coordination bodies the new regional body.
  • Establish clear procedures for tendering for works by local coordination bodies.

Legislative Context - Catchment and Land Protection

Since the introduction of the Catchment and Land Protection (CALP) Act in 1994, Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) have been set up for each of Victorias ten catchment areas.  Merri Creek is within the Port Phillip and Western Port catchment.

The CALP Act sets out a framework for the integrated management of land and water resources, including control of pest plants and animals.  It also sets out a process for setting priorities for the management of land and water resources throughout the State.

The CMAs have responsibilities for:

(a) to prepare a regional catchment strategy for the region and to co-ordinate and monitor its implementation;

(b) to prepare special area plans for areas in the region and to co-ordinate and monitor their implementation;

(c) to promote the co-operation of persons and bodies involved in the management of land and water resources in the region in preparing and implementing the strategy and special area plans;

(d) to advise the Minister, and, if requested by any other Minister, that other Minister

(i) on regional priorities for activities by and resource allocation to bodies involved in the management of land and water resources in the region; and

(ii) on guidelines for integrated management of land and water resources in the region; and

(iii) on matters relating to catchment management and land protection; and

(iv) on the condition of land and water resources in the region;

(e) to promote community awareness and understanding of the importance of land and water resources, their sustainable use, conservation and rehabilitation;

(f) to make recommendations to the Minister about the funding of the implementation of the regional catchment strategy and any special area plan;

(g) to make recommendations to the Minister and the Secretary about actions to be taken on Crown land managed by the Secretary to prevent land degradation;

(h) to advise the Minister and provide information to the Minister on any matter referred to it by the Minister;

(i) to carry out any other functions conferred on an Authority by or under this Act or any other Act.

  • preparation of regional strategies for management of natural resources;
  • encouraging cooperation of those involved in natural resource management;
  • advising the Minister on priorities and the operation of the CALP Act;
  • promoting community awareness; and
  • recommending measures on Crown land to prevent land degradation.

The Port Phillip and Western Port Regional Catchment Strategy was released by the Port Phillip and Westernport CMA in 2004.  It sets out a number of actions in the areas of:

  • Water and waterway management
  • Land management
  • Biodiversity protection and management
  • People and organisations,
  • Monitoring evaluation and reporting
  • Prioritisation and implementation.

Management Coordination Fundamentals

Management coordination is based upon some essential premises.  Amongst these, the following are particularly applicable in the case of Merri Creek.

  • Management agencies have differing roles and responsibilities in the management of the waterway, and its lands and open space along the creek corridor.
  • Coordination ensures avoidance of duplication of effort, can ensure scarce resources are used to best effect and can bring about consistency of approach to works across municipal boundaries and across agencies. 
  • The communication and cooperation engendered through coordination produces benefits for participants, on some occasions translating into cost reductions.  For example, new approaches to works, especially technological developments and new methods of delivery can come about as a result of communication between parties and the challenging of conventional ideas and approaches.
  • Synergistic benefits become available through cooperation, especially on occasions when access to external funding is available.  The accessing of additional external funding merely through being a recognised cooperative entity has been demonstrated to be a positive element of the existence of coordinating bodies for Merri Creek.
  • Inclusion of views from all sectors (local and State government agencies and the community) potentially means the generation of well considered advice back to member organisations.
  • A sounding board and source of comment on proposals is readily available for use by member organisations.

Current Roles and Responsibilities

Roles and responsibilities of the various agencies involved in the Merri Creek are described in the Introduction to this strategy.

Key References

Ernst and Whinney Services, (1988). Merri Creek Management Study, Vols. 1 & 2, Report prepared for Merri Creek Bicentennial Committee, Melbourne.

Kunert, C. and Wright, G. (1997). Northern Waterways Coordination Review-A Report to the Northern Waterways Coordination Review Reference Group, March 1997 with May 1997 update to chapter 6, Melbourne.


1.   Coordination is a desirable goal for organisations with differing responsibilities for management of streams and their environs, and improvements to coordination should continually be sought.

2.   The Northern Waterways Review in 1997 endorsed the MCMC model, but periodic reviews of MCMCs purposes and structure are needed to ensure it remains relevant.

3.   The coordination body across the four northern waterways recommended by the Northern Waterways Review has not been set up and may not be necessary if informally liaison between the bodies is effective.

4.   Achievement of a consensual position between Councils and Melbourne Water in relation to the scale of waterway coordination structures was not possible through the Northern Waterways Review, and remains unresolved.

5.   Better coordination between utilities with important assets in the creek corridor (e.g. SP AusNet) can assist with the achievement of sustainable vegetation management, improvement of amenity and the visual character of the stream and its environs.


1.   Enhance Merri catchment and regional planning, coordination, monitoring and reporting (see PPWPRCS objective PO1).

2.   Increase the capacity and participation of people and organisations in catchment management (see PPWPRCS objective PO2).


1.   Effective management coordination between stakeholders encompassing the following objectives:

  • recognition of the separate roles and responsibilities of funding stakeholders;
  • inclusion of stakeholders in forums where views can be aired before those with the management responsibility;
  • preparedness to work towards common and shared goals as set out in this Plan;
  • preparedness to adopt a flexible and responsive approach to:
    • the requirements and impacts of organisational and legislative change;
    • delivery of waterway and land management improvement; and
    • contributions from, and involvement of, the community sector.
  • preparedness to recognise catchment generated effects on the waterways of the Merri system and to address them in line with CALP requirements;
  • ability to develop and implement policy and programs through the use of human resources and staff with required expertise in waterway, open space and land management;
  • effective use of additional external funding, where it is available, to add value to member organisation contributions;
  • development of procedures for the operation of management coordination committees to ensure they operate in an effective, democratic and accountable manner in meeting their objectives and the purposes of their stakeholders; and
  • clear understanding of accountabilities and degree of delegation and roles and objectives between member organisations and staff.
  • best use of resources provided by funding stakeholders.
  • inclusion of the community sector in management coordination structures.

2.   Regular reviews of management coordination structures and mechanisms to:

  • ensure their continuing relevance to contemporary circumstances;
  • provide an important and necessary accountability tool; and
  • provide a formal means for advising funding stakeholders of the progress of particular structures.

3.   Effective liaison between MCMC and the Moonee Ponds Creek Coordination Committee, Darebin Creek Management Committee and other nearby waterway management bodies.

4.   Support for private landholders participating in cooperative stream management programs.


See Section E page 212

[289] Ernst and Whinney Services, 1988

[290] Ernst and Whinney Services, 1988

[291] Kunert and Wright, 1997