The Victorian government has vowed to clean up the Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay and crack down on litterbugs.
But its plan for the state’s waterways contains no new dollars and is instead an effort to co-ordinate an existing $1 billion of investments already flagged by water authorities.
Stormwater run-off in urban and rural areas can pollute waterways.
Litter is also a significant problem, with authorities collecting more than 10,000 cubic metres of rubbish and organic debris along the river and bay each year.
Environment Minister Ryan Smith said people enjoyed swimming and canoeing in the Yarra around his local area of Warrandyte, in Melbourne’s outer east.
But the water quality needed to be improved in the river’s lower reaches, he said.
‘‘We do look forward to a time when you can recreate in the lower reaches (of the Yarra),’’ Mr Smith told reporters at Melbourne’s South Wharf on Monday.
Mr Smith said part of the plan would be to target rubbish hotspots and ensure the Environment Protection Authority prosecuted litterbugs.
Grants of up to $10,000 would be available for schools, environment and community groups under the government’s $20 million communities for nature program.
‘‘With the next round of grants opening soon, we will be actively encouraging applications from groups with projects supporting these important waterways,’’ he said.
Environment Victoria healthy rivers campaigner Juliet Le Feuvre praised the minister for taking an interest in the health of the state’s waterways and welcomed better co-ordination.
‘‘But on the other hand, to sell this as a $1 billion plan is a bit of an overstatement as there is no new money attached to the plan,’’ she told AAP.
Ms Le Feuvre said the government should get on with implementing the actions already identified in the better bays and waterways plan developed by the former state government and the commonwealth.
‘‘They have worked all this stuff out already and it needs implementation,’’ she said.
‘‘He (Mr Smith) can’t expect the community to do all the work.’’