Waterways provide amenity by providing a pleasant place for us to visit and a restorative escape from the urban environment.
The strategy will consider opportunities to enhance the aspects of amenity through works that improve access to waterways and pleasantness of sites. This might include new paths, viewpoints, revegetation projects and litter prevention.
Amenity is defined as ‘the pleasantness of a waterway to visitors and the ability of the waterway to provide a restorative escape from the urban landscape’. Amenity at waterways enables us to enjoy a range of experiences, such as a sense of escape, a feeling of being immersed in a natural environment, engaging with an aesthetically pleasing place that provides a cool respite on a hot day, and feeling safe in the environment. These descriptions are quite conceptual, but consider this: have you ever been to a waterway to sit or stroll in quiet contemplation? Perhaps you enjoyed the sound of running water and bird calls, or admired the view to the water, and trees and green spaces around you. If so, then you have been enjoying the amenity provided by the waterway.
Amenity derived from waterways is intrinsically linked to the quality and extent of the natural vistas, vegetation and natural surroundings. Physical aspects such as the sight and sound of running water, accessibility to an area, the ability to move along or around a waterway, and facilities that enable time to be spent beside waterways are also important. Amenity values are diminished by the presence of unpleasant or intrusive development, odour, litter and noise.
Amenity is also linked to health and wellbeing through tangible aspects such as a shady, cool environment providing respite from the urban heat, and less tangible aspects such as the restorative effect on our mental wellbeing of being immersed in a natural environment.
The status for amenity is based on data from a Melbourne Water survey, Community Perceptions of Waterways, where participants from greater Melbourne gave feedback on how and why they use waterways, and their level of satisfaction with the waterways.
The values are assessed by correlating respondents’ primary reason for visiting waterways with amenity value – for example, nature appreciation, and amenity - and then taking the average satisfaction score for those activities.
Scores for satisfaction are generally between 6 and 8, with little variation between catchments.
- Inappropriate urban development e.g. encroachment and overshadowing
- Lack of appropriate facilities (e.g. park benches, paths that allow people to enjoy the environment)
- Inappropriate maintenance (unsafe vegetation or paths)
- Poor environmental condition/naturalness
- Poor access to waterways
- Litter and other visible pollution
Potential management actions
- Site-appropriate vegetation management (may include vegetation for cooling/shade, habitat, screening from urban environment, naturalness)
- Faunal habitat improvement
- Environmental water management
- Maintaining natural channel form
- Site appropriate safety improvements (e.g. pathways, lighting)
- Aesthetic improvements (e.g. viewlines, litter, vegetation)
- Access enhancement (e.g. remove barriers to access; improve pathways, signage, wayfinding)