A ‘Merri’ Partnership: Trent & Jenny’s Twinning Story

Twinning Tour of the Barwon River at Buckley Falls from left Jenny Emeny, Warrnambool City Council, Donna Smithyman City of Greater Geelong and Jaclyne Scally, RMCG (3 Sep 2018). Photo credit: Trent Wallis

Mentee – Jenny Emery, Open Space Planner, Warrnambool City Council
Mentor – Trent Wallis, Senior Consultant, RMCG

Trent and Jenny at the 1st Twinning Workshop in Portland developing the mentoring agreement. Photo credit: Lucy Cameron
Trent and Jenny at the 1st Twinning Workshop in Portland developing the mentoring agreement. Photo credit: Lucy Cameron

Our goals

As an open space planner at City of Warrnambool, one of Jenny’s interests is the future role of the Merri River in the open space network of Warrnambool. The Merri River flows through residential areas of the city and in stretches adjoins a number of associated parklands. Currently, however, the river and its parklands are difficult to access, stretches are fairly degraded, and many of open space areas are undeveloped and unconnected.

The goals of the project were:

  • To develop a draft framework that recognises the open space value of the Merri River in Warrnambool, and works towards a corridor of connected and restored parklands
  • To develop an open space precinct plan for parks on the south side of the Merri River between Manuka Drive and Woodend Road reserve (planning for the first stage issues and opportunities engagement)

The associated goals of the twinning (mentor/ mentee partnership) were to:

  • To gain insights into new planning approaches to waterway management, drawing on input from Trent as mentor and the broader experience of the Twinning participants and network.
  • To share professional development insights in the waterway industry.
Trent and Jenny at the 2nd Twinning Workshop at the Winton Wetlands (4 June 2018). Photo credit: Tamara Boyd
Trent and Jenny at the 2nd Twinning Workshop at the Winton Wetlands (4 June 2018). Photo credit: Tamara Boyd

Our Actions

Merri Tour – May 2018

Following the first Twinning workshop in March, Trent visited Warrnambool for a tour of the Merri River with Jenny and her coordinator Julie. They discussed some of the similarities with other waterway projects around the state, and opportunities for new strategic approaches to planning, open space and waterway health for the Merri.

Following the second workshop in June, Trent then invited Jenny to tour the Barwon River in Geelong along with a representative from the City of Greater Geelong, Donna Smithyman and Trent’s colleague at RMCG, Jacqui Scally.

Barwon Tour – September 2018

The Barwon River in Geelong is quite similar to the Merri in that it has been extensively modified since European settlement, flows through the urban area of the municipality, and plays an important social and recreational focal point for the city. Trent was previously involved through his role at the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority, in a multi-partner committee that developed the Barwon River Parklands Strategy, which is now being implemented. Trent was able to draw on this program and his years of experience in waterway management to provide advice on the Merri.

Through the Barwon tour, Jenny was able to see on-ground examples of projects that could be implemented within the Merri River corridor in Warrnambool. Of particular relevance were sites that were restored for both environmental and recreation purposes within an urban context.

Twinning Tour of the Barwon River - View of the Barwon River through Geelong (3 Sep 2018). Photo credit: Trent Wallis
Twinning Tour of the Barwon River – View of the Barwon River through Geelong (3 Sep 2018). Photo credit: Trent Wallis

The Merri Project

During the program, a Merri River Parklands framework was drafted, which Trent reviewed for the Council. There was significant benefit in having the document peer reviewed by someone with extensive waterway management experience.

Trent was also able to provide advice on a range of project and professional development issues through his years of experience as senior waterway professional. Whilst the projects are ongoing beyond the Twinning program, the advice given will continue to benefit the project and Jenny’s professional development well into the future.

Key learning from the ‘Twinning’ experience

  1. The importance of engaging early ‘champions’ for projects; as well as the benefits of cross-organisational branding for project promotion and ownership, where there are multiple stakeholders.
  2. Changes under the current Water for Victoria – Water Plan, which has an increased focus on the role of recreation values, integrated water management, management of urban waterways and recognising and managing for Aboriginal and Traditional Owner values.
  3. The importance of planning for cross-river pedestrian and cycling access.
  4. When faced with challenges, to trust your own judgement.
Sharing plans for the parkland at Buckley Falls (3 Sep 2018). Photo credit: Jenny Emeny
Sharing plans for the parkland at Buckley Falls (3 Sep 2018). Photo credit: Jenny Emeny

What did you gain personally?

My appreciation for the role that waterways play in open space planning has increased, and I have greatly broadened my professional network across Victoria and New South Wales.

The lesson of ‘start with why’ will benefit all aspects of my employment and volunteer roles going forward. It is a good test whenever beginning or proposing a new project.

The triple value of project mentoring, professional development and networking are a winning formula and I would recommend the Twinning program to anyone involved in waterway management or planning.

– Jenny

For me the Twinning journey provided an opportunity to:

  • Share knowledge and expertise and learning about another great waterway project (in this case, Jenny’s Merri River project) – drawing on and sharing info from my waterway background.
  • Help Jenny to develop and grow professionally in her field strategic waterway planning.
  • To broaden and strengthen my networks and connections within the industry.

A great program on the waterway learning and development journey, which I would strongly encourage others to undertake.

– Trent

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