Walk leader: Annie Bolitho
Text by: Annie Bolitho
Our walk began outside the National Gallery of Victoria in front of the well-known water wall. There was only one Jane’s Walk old-timer in the group, but several who admired Jane’s work. The crowd also consisted of a few T’ai Chi friends and colleagues from my co-work space, and a woman whose daughter was participating in Jane’s Walk in London. ‘You’ve got to find one in Melbourne, Mum!’, her daughter had said. The theme of the day was water management, and we made a point to discuss it in various points around the city.
Water management in Melbourne has been driven by factors like public health, growth, efficiency, livability and sustainability. In the 1990s, the National Gallery water wall made the change over to recycled water. Recycled water was also introduced to public fountains at that time. This was a small-yet-important move, and we all shared our views regarding the effect of this change. We then made our way to Southbank. Public health in this swampy zone of the Yarra River has been dubious since colonial times, and various drainage schemes have changed the course of the river. Evan Walker, the Minister of Planning during the 1980 Victorian Government, was the figure behind many changes in the area which is now home to over 9,000 high-rise dwellers. Walker was known as ‘a great generalist’ and introducing him this way made his story a highlight of the walk since not many had heard of him previously.
Since Melbourne is being impacted by climate change, an urban forest strategy is in the process of being implemented in Southbank. Nicola, a participant who had been to community consultations on the matter, gave the rest of the group an insight into the kind of trees being considered for the project and the importance of reducing urban heat.
As usual, Jane’s Walk was full of surprises. Things like, “Was this really the old port?” and “Wow! That drain is huge.” Toward the end some walkers peeled off and the rest of us walked through to low-lying Elizabeth Street, last flooded in 1972. Feeling tired and ultra water sensitive, it was time for lunch.