Urban and rural exchange, and the power of finding your Why? – Mark and Matthew’s Twinning Story

Visit to the Merri Creek in Melbourne to gain a first-hand experience of urban waterway issues. Photo credit: Mark Turner

Twinning Partnership

Matthew Vogt – Yarra Valley Water, Mark Turner – Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority

Mark and Matthew
Mark Turner (left) and Matthew Vogt (right)

Our Goals:

Yarra Valley Water (YVW), Melbourne Water (MWC), the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and the relevant Councils for Merri Creek catchment pilot partnered to develop a case study on waterway investment prioritisation for the Merri Creek catchment (existing developed area only). The objective of the study was to test whether integrating water agencies and local councils’ waterway investments can deliver greater value to the community in terms of improved waterway health as well as provision of amenity.

The study comprehensively demonstrated that the key threats to achieving the desired outcomes in the Merri Creek, and the downstream Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay, derived from polluted urban runoff which  contributed over 99% of the nutrient and heavy metal pollutant loads.

Currently, 78% of planned investment is directed towards addressing infrequent wastewater overflows that were found to pose insignificant risk to the outcomes sought for Merri Creek. The study highlighted an imbalance between investment and the outcomes sought and highlighted primary focus areas for redirection of investment.

The next phase of this project was the focus of Matt and Mark’s Twinning relationship and it’s objectives were to:

  • Conduct detail monitoring of the waterway
  • Conduct detailed community consultation
  • Identify in detail, values and threats
  • Determine the most effect actions for and investment for the Merri Creek
  • And commence implementation of the identified actions .


Our Actions:

Work has largely been focussed on conducting investigations: detailed drain and litter surveys were completed to identify the worst polluting assets, along with source detection work for the potential sewer to stormwater cross connections.

The project has also formed the basis for YVW’s Hydraulic Capacity Upgrade Program for 2018- 2023. This program has been developed alongside progression of the Merri Creek Project during this time. Communicating this program effectively in YVWs pricing submission has been influenced by the concept of focusing on ‘why’, a key concept taught through the Twinning program. By communicating through the lense of “why” YVW is adopting an alternative approach to sewer upgrades (such as the Merri Creek Project) rather than “what” and “how” was critical in getting business and community buy in (through YVWs Citizen Jury).

Sharing of information and general discussion through the mentor-mentee relationship has really helped focus on the why, expanding from waterway ecological health to mental health and wellbeing and the critical roles that waterways can play. Visiting each other’s “neighbourhood” and waterways demonstrated just how waterways can be enjoyed in different ways but reinforced their importance  and the opportunities of river improvement.

The project is now focussed on building a collaborative working group with other agencies (Melbourne Water, EPA, Councils). Developing a group “why” statement is the first step and a draft project purpose has been developed.

Visit to the Merri Creek in Melbourne to gain a first-hand experience of urban waterway issues. Photo credit: Mark Turner
Visit to the Merri Creek in Melbourne to gain a first-hand experience of urban waterway issues. Photo credit: Mark Turner

Key Learnings:

The key learning from the Twinning program has been the focus on the “why” of the project – the value of using this as the lense in which the project is communicated and the basis of building collaborative relationships.

The Twinning program has helped shape how we communicate the alternative approach proposed on the Merri Creek as part of YVW’s Hydraulic Capacity Upgrade program, which will be implemented over 2018-2023. This program will continue to focus on ” Why”  and will benefit from the learnings of the Twinning program for years to come.

A shared love of coffee is an ongoing and part of Matthew and Mark's Twinning relationship. Photo credit: Mark Turner
A shared love of coffee is an ongoing and part of Matthew and Mark’s Twinning relationship. Photo credit: Mark Turner

What did you personally gain from the Waterway Management Twinning Program?

“The program really opened my eyes to the power of focussing on “why” and changed the way I look at everything I do and how I communicate it to others.

I really valued being exposed to other catchment management projects across Victoria and the different ways in which waterways are important to people, from rural catchments to urban streams.

I thought the program was outstanding and has really influenced how I approach my work and aspects of my personal life. The program was very effective in really focussing on personal development and growth and linking this to our projects and how we work.”

– Matt

why-image“The Twinning program is a great opportunity outside of the day to day work space to look at why you do what you do and share the experience with others. I’ve realised that waterway managers are a bit of a group unto themselves and it’s been good to have some “outsiders” participate in the program as I had with Matt. Working him I learnt a lot that I would not have otherwise.

I have been on a bit of a Why journey this year triggered by Twinning and I am building it in more and more in my life, both work and personal.”

– Mark