YAN YEAN WATER SUPPLY SYSTEM
CLONBINANE, WHITTLESEA,HUMEVALE, YAN YEAN, DOREEN, MERNDA, SOUTH MORANG, MILL PARK, BUNDOORA, THOMASTOWN, RESERVOIR, PRESTON,THORNBURY, NORTHCOTE AND FITZROY NORTH, MITCHELL SHIRE, WHITTLESEA CITY, DAREBIN CITY, YARRA CITY
Statement of Significance
What is significant?
The Yan Yean Water Supply System was constructed from 1853 as the first large scale engineered water supply system in Victoria. It consists of a series of catchment weirs and reservoirs connected by aqueducts and pipe track which extend from north of the Great Dividing Range to the Merri Creek, 5 kilometres north of the Melbourne Central Business District.
After the establishment of Melbourne in 1835, there were increasing problems with the quality of the water supply as the population increased. Two water supply schemes were considered, but James Blackburn's proposal for a gravity-fed water supply drawn from a reservoir to be constructed near Whittlesea was selected and the Yan Yean Water Supply System was constructed in the years from 1853 to 1857.
The better quality of water supplied to Melbourne reduced the incidence of disease in the first two decades of its operations, but the system was plagued with problems of water quality and quantity. To overcome this, refinements were made during the latter decades of the nineteenth century. These included the 1864 construction of a holding reservoir at Preston to regulate supply pressure of water to the city and prevent stagnation in the pipes overnight, and the northern extension of the system through construction of weirs and aqueducts to harvest Wallaby Creek, Jacks Creek and Silver Creek. The 1886 construction of a second reservoir known as Toorourrong allowed sediment from these sources to settle before water passed to Yan Yean Reservoir along the new 'Clearwater Channel', avoiding a polluted section of the Plenty River.
By the 1890s Melbourne's population had grown significantly and the Maroondah System was constructed to augment supply, joining the Yan Yean pipe track at the Junction Basin. The Yan Yean Water Supply System has been continually in use since it was established, but as a result of the addition of new systems in the twentieth century it now supplies only 3% of Melbourne's water.
The Yan Yean Water Supply System extends from north of the Great Dividing Range to Merri Creek in Northcote, 5 kilometres north of the Melbourne Central Business District. The Yan Yean Water Supply system was constructed from 1853-91 and comprises a range of different components and sections, including (from north to south): Silver Creek and Wallaby Creek weirs and aqueducts, The Cascades, Jacks Creek and Jacks Creek Deviation Channel, Toorourrong Reservoir, Clearwater Channel aqueduct, Yan Yean Reservoir, pipe reserve from Yan Yean to Morang, Pipehead Reservoir, pipe reserve track from South Morang to Preston Reservoir, Preston Reservoir complex, and pipe reserve from Preston Reservoir to Merri Creek.
This whole system lies in the traditional land of the Wurundjeri people.
How is it significant?
The Yan Yean Water Supply System satisfies the following criteria for inclusion in the Victorian Heritage Register:
Criterion A Importance to the course, or pattern, of Victoria's cultural history
Criterion B Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of Victoria's cultural history
Criterion C Potential to yield information that will contribute to an understanding of Victoria's cultural history
Criterion D Importance in demonstrating the principal characteristics of a class of cultural places and objects
Criterion F Importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement at a particular period.
Criterion H Special association with the life or works of a person, or group of persons, of importance in Victoria's history.
Why is it significant?
The Yan Yean Water Supply is significant at the State level for the following reasons:
The Yan Yean Water Supply System, constructed in the years from 1853, is the oldest surviving water supply system in Victoria and still forms part of Melbourne's water supply today. It pre-dates the Coliban system at Bendigo by 5 years and probably influenced its design as well as those of later systems such as Ballarat. The continuous use of the system for its original purpose is an important part of its significance. It was the first of the major infrastructure projects that later included the development of railways and the Melbourne Sewerage Scheme that were of critical importance in the development of Melbourne (and Victoria) in the wake of the gold rush. For over 30 years it remained the major source of water supply to Melbourne. (Criterion A).
The Yan Yean Water Supply System is a rare example of an early continually-operating, water supply system serving a major urban centre that still operates largely according to its original design. It remains a small but nonetheless important component of the city water supply. It provides rare evidence of the evolution of engineering practices and techniques in the mid to late nineteenth century, and incorporates early technical elements such as in-line pressure reducing valves and engineered cascades to aerate incoming water that are not found in other systems in Victoria or Australia. The Yan Yean Water Supply System also provides detailed and varied evidence of engineering construction techniques prior to the revolution brought by concrete construction, which was used extensively in water supply systems built later in the nineteenth century and in the twentieth century. (Criterion B).
The Yan Yean Water Supply System remains, 150 years after it was completed, a working system where the function and use of many of the original features can still be understood and interpreted. Another notable feature of the Yan Yean Water Supply System is the extent of archaeological remains, which include decommissioned pipes, reservoirs, aqueducts and other infrastructure that have the potential to provide further evidence about the system and how it was constructed and operated. For example, the recent replacement of early cast and wrought iron pipe mains in the pipe reserve between South Morang and Preston has yielded valuable information about nineteenth century construction techniques, including the method of manufacture and installation and repairs and improvements that were made. (Criterion C).
The Yan Yean Water Supply System contains representative examples of most (if not all) of the features associated with nineteenth and early-twentieth century water supply systems including storage and service reservoirs, weirs, pipe mains and reserves, aqueducts, siphons, tunnels and, as such, is one of the best representative examples of a such a system not only in Victoria, but also Australia. As previously noted, it includes features that are rare or possibly unique such as the valve houses and The Cascades. A notable feature is that much of the original infrastructure remains intact and still in use and therefore the way that the system was used and operated can still be understood and interpreted relatively easily. While essentially intact, it has been modified and adapted to improve water supply and quality and to meet changing technical requirements and standards and this provides a fascinating illustration of the evolution of water supply technology over a 150-year period. From the 1880s, the closed catchment of the Yan Yean Reservoir landscape has suffered little human interference, and in the latter part of the 20th century two areas within it were reserved as Reference Areas providing a natural standard for comparison (Criterion D).
The Yan Yean Water Supply System was the first large scale engineered water supply in Victoria and introduced a number of engineering innovations that were to be influential in the design and construction of later systems in Victoria and Australia. Chief amongst these was the concept based on a remote supply fed by gravity rather than machinery to the city and the successful application of British dam construction technologies to Australian conditions. Lessons learnt at Yan Yean were used to make improvements that benefited these later systems. As previously noted, what is notable about the system is that much of the original infrastructure is still in use and has been little modified since it was first constructed. (Criterion F).
The Yan Yean Water Supply System has strong associations with people who were influential in the historic development of Melbourne and Victoria in the nineteenth century including Clement Hodgkinson, Matthew B Jackson, James Brady and Ferdinand Von Mueller. The Yan Yean Water Supply System also has associations with Sir John Monash, engineer, and his Reinforced Concrete & Monier Pipe Construction Co., which built Reservoir No 2 at Preston. Finally, the Yan Yean system led to the creation of the Water Supply Branch of the Public Works Department, which was the first State authority to control the planning, development and management of water supplies in Victoria. It also has strong associations with the Melbourne & Metropolitan Board of Works (MMBW), which managed the system from 1891 to 1991. (Criterion H).
YAN YEAN WATER SUPPLY SYSTEM - History
After the establishment of Melbourne in 1835, there were increasing problems with the quality of the water supply as the population increased. Two events that occurred in July 1851 greatly affected the future development of Melbourne and its water supply. They were the separation of Victoria from New South Wales and the discovery of gold at Warrandyte near Melbourne. The first enabled the new Government of Victoria to directly borrow money for public works, and the second led to a large increase in the population of Melbourne, and consequently, Victoria.
Two schemes were considered: James Blackburn proposed a gravity-fed water supply drawn from a reservoir to be constructed near Whittlesea, while Town Clerk J.C. King proposed a more conventional mechanical pumping station to supply a reservoir near Dight's Falls closer to the city. After assessment by Clement Hodgkinson and later by Matthew Jackson (appointed as engineer in charge of establishing the water supply) Blackburn's scheme was recommended, with some changes, which potentially increased the capacity of the reservoir to serve a city of 200,000.
The first sod for the Yan Yean reservoir was turned by Governor La Trobe in December 1853 and the system was completed four years later in 1857. The system then comprised the reservoir and caretaker's residence at Yan Yean and a pipe track to the city that followed road reservations along Nicholson Street, St Georges Road and Plenty Road. Valve houses were constructed at two locations to reduce the build up of pressure in the pipes. From the time of the separation of Victoria and NSW (in 1851) to the completion of the system in 1857 the population of Melbourne had already grown from 23,000 to 110,000. Although the better quality of the water supplied reduced the incidence of 'colonial fever' or typhoid in the first two decades of its operations the Yan Yean system was plagued with problems of water quality and quantity. To overcome this, refinements were made to the system during the latter decades of the nineteenth century.
In 1864 a holding reservoir was constructed at Preston to regulate the supply pressure of water to the city and prevent stagnation in the pipes overnight, and in 1875 the pipe from the reservoir to Morang was replaced with an open aqueduct that fed to a small holding reservoir. The removed pipe was used to duplicate the pipeline between Morang and Preston. Perhaps the most significant additions to the system came in the 1880s when a weir was built on Wallaby Creek, which fed water via an aqueduct system to the Yan Yean reservoir via Jacks Creek. This included the construction of the Clearwater Channel aqueduct to avoid the polluted section of the Plenty River near Whittlesea. In 1886 a second reservoir known as 'Toorourrong' was constructed below the Jacks Creek junction to allow sediment to settle before water entered the Clearwater Channel aqueduct and a further weir was constructed at Silver Creek, which was linked to the Wallaby Creek Weir via an aqueduct.
A government inquiry in 1872 had considered the effects of land use in the catchment on water quality, with timber harvesting in particular identified as a cause of pollution through eroded soil entering the system and fouling by the working animals. In response the government reserved the catchment of the Yan Yean system for water supply purposes, and by 1886 the Yan Yean catchment was completely closed to all activities except water harvesting. The closed catchment policy, once established, was maintained for Melbourne's later water supply systems, thus ensuring a high standard of clean water, which required little or no treatment.
By the 1890s Melbourne's population had grown significantly and the system had reached its limit. To augment the Yan Yean system a new separate water supply system was established with the construction of a weir at the Watts River near Healesville. Water was brought by the Maroondah Aqueduct, which joined the Yan Yean pipe track at the Junction Basin by 1891. This signalled the end of the Yan Yean system as Melbourne's sole source of water. In the twentieth century a series of new and much larger reservoirs at increasing distances from Melbourne would be built to serve the city's increasing water supply needs.
The Yan Yean system has been continually in use since it was established and much of the infrastructure constructed in the nineteenth century remains in use today. However, as a result of the addition of new systems in the twentieth century it now supplies only 3% of Melbourne's water.
During the nineteenth century, the construction of the Yan Yean system was a great source of pride for Melbourne and Victoria. It became a symbol of the development of Melbourne into a modern city in the Victorian age when infrastructure projects were a matter of considerable State investment. The Yan Yean system is notable for the diversity of features that include weirs, aqueducts, siphons, flumes and bridges. Most components were designed and constructed to a high standard comparable to other nineteenth century projects such as the railways and the Melbourne sewerage system. The system is also notable for the remnants of the early landscaping schemes around Yan Yean and Toorourrong reservoirs (thought to use planting schemes suggested by Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, Victoria's first Government Botanist and former Director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens) and along the aqueducts and pipe reserves, which illustrate the influences of nineteenth century notions of the 'picturesque'.
The Yan Yean Water Supply System is associated with the early development of tourism in Victoria. The landscape around the Yan Yean Reservoir was acclaimed as one of the largest in the world and attracted writers and artists who marvelled at its technical and engineering accomplishments and eulogised the picturesque setting. For many years, until they were closed to the public, the forested catchments around the reservoirs were well-known and popular spots for day-trippers from the city. While the catchment areas are now closed to the public, the parks at Yan Yean and Toorourrong reservoirs remain popular to this day.
The 'Black Saturday' bushfires of February 2009 destroyed a number of structures relating to the water supply system. These included a number of structures which comprised the Wallaby Creek Quarters - a complex which had begun as caretaker's accommodation but was expanded in the early decades to provide a weekend holiday 'lodge' and gardens for the enjoyment of the MMBW Commissioners. A 1928-29 caretaker's cottage at Toorourrong Reservoir was also burnt, as were many of the trees and most of the reservoir park facilities, including shelters, toilets, barbecues and walking tracks.
Context 2007 Yan Yean Water Supply System Conservation Management Plan; Volumes 1-6
Context 2012 Toorourrong Reservoir: Report On Heritage Mitigation Works
YAN YEAN WATER SUPPLY SYSTEM - Plaque Citation
Constructed from 1853 as the first large-scale engineered water supply system in Victoria, it was the major source of water supply to Melbourne for more than 30 years. It still forms part of Melbourne's water supply and influenced the design of later systems.
YAN YEAN WATER SUPPLY SYSTEM - Permit ExemptionsGeneral Exemptions:General exemptions apply to all places and objects included in the Victorian Heritage Register (VHR). General exemptions have been designed to allow everyday activities, maintenance and changes to your property, which don’t harm its cultural heritage significance, to proceed without the need to obtain approvals under the Heritage Act 2017.Places of worship: In some circumstances, you can alter a place of worship to accommodate religious practices without a permit, but you must notify the Executive Director of Heritage Victoria before you start the works or activities at least 20 business days before the works or activities are to commence.Subdivision/consolidation: Permit exemptions exist for some subdivisions and consolidations. If the subdivision or consolidation is in accordance with a planning permit granted under Part 4 of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 and the application for the planning permit was referred to the Executive Director of Heritage Victoria as a determining referral authority, a permit is not required.Specific exemptions may also apply to your registered place or object. If applicable, these are listed below. Specific exemptions are tailored to the conservation and management needs of an individual registered place or object and set out works and activities that are exempt from the requirements of a permit. Specific exemptions prevail if they conflict with general exemptions. Find out more about heritage permit exemptions here.Specific Exemptions:
General Conditions: 1.
All exempted alterations are to be planned and carried out in a manner which prevents damage to the fabric of the registered place or object.
General Conditions: 2.
Should it become apparent during further inspection or the carrying out of works that original or previously hidden or inaccessible details of the place (including historical archaeological remains) are revealed which relate to the significance of the place, then the exemption covering such works shall cease and Heritage Victoria shall be notified as soon as possible.
General Conditions: 3.
All works are to be carried out in accordance with the policies and procedures set out in the Yan Yean Water Supply System Conservation Management Plan (Context 2007) or subsequent revisions.
General Conditions: 4.
Nothing in this determination prevents the Executive Director from amending or rescinding all or any of the permit exemptions.
General Conditions: 5.
Nothing in this determination exempts owners or their agents from the responsibility to seek relevant planning or building permits from the responsible authorities where applicable.
Minor works and replacement (like with like) for fabric and features (building, vegetation and structures) that dates from after 1949 are permit exempt. Original features which have been dismantled and reconstructed since 1949 are not permit exempt.
Yan Yean system maintenance
The following Yan Yean system maintenance duties are permit exempt:
. Aqueduct catch drain upgrades, except where the drain is lined with stone.
. Installation of flow meters and improved telemetry.
. Cleaning of aqueducts, channels and spillways.
The following exterior works are permit exempt:Minor repairs and maintenance which replace like with like. Removal of any extraneous items such as air conditioners, pipe work, ducting, wiring, antennae, aerials etc and making good. Installation or repair of damp-proofing by either injection method or grouted pocket method. Regular garden maintenance. Installation, removal or replacement of garden watering systems. Repair, removal or replacement of existing pergolas and other garden structures.
The following interior works are permit exempt:Painting of previously painted walls and ceilings provided that preparation or painting does not remove evidence of the original paint or other decorative scheme. Removal of paint from originally unpainted or oiled joinery, doors, architraves, skirtings and decorative strapping. Installation, removal or replacement of non-original carpets and/or flexible floor coverings. Installation, removal or replacement of non-original curtain track, rods, blinds and other window dressings. Installation, removal or replacement of non-original hooks, nails and other devices for the hanging of mirrors, paintings and other wall mounted artworks. Refurbishment of bathrooms, toilets including removal, installation or replacement of non-original sanitary fixtures and associated piping, mirrors, wall and floor coverings. Installation, removal or replacement of non-original kitchen benches and fixtures including sinks, stoves, ovens, refrigerators, dishwashers etc and associated plumbing and wiring. Installation, removal or replacement of ducted, hydronic or concealed radiant type heating provided that the installation does not damage existing skirtings and architraves and provided that the location of the heating unit is concealed from view. Installation, removal or replacement of electrical wiring provided that all new wiring is fully concealed and any original light switches, pull cords, push buttons or power outlets are retained in-situ. Note: if wiring original to the place was carried in timber conduits then the conduits should remain in-situ. Installation, removal or replacement of bulk insulation in the roof space. Installation, removal or replacement of smoke detectors.
Fire Suppression Duties
The following fire suppression duties are permit exempt:
. Fire suppression and fire fighting duties provided the works do not involve the removal or destruction of any significant above-ground features or sub-surface archaeological artefacts or deposits;
. Fire suppression activities such as fuel reduction burns, and fire control line construction, provided all significant historical and archaeological features are appropriately recognised and protected.
Note: Fire management authorities should be aware of the location, extent and significance of historical and archaeological places when developing fire suppression and fire fighting strategies. The importance of places listed in the Heritage Register must be considered when strategies for fire suppression and management are being developed.
Weed and Vermin Control
The following weed and vermin control activities are permit exempt:
. Weed and vermin control activities provided the works do not involve the removal or destruction of any significant above-ground features or sub-surface archaeological artefacts or deposits.
Note: Particular care must be taken with weed and vermin control works where such activities may have a detrimental affect on the significant fabric of a place. Such works may include the removal of ivy, moss or lichen from an historic structure or feature, or the removal of burrows from a site that has archaeological values.
Landscape and Roads
The following landscape maintenance works are permit exempt:
. Landscape maintenance works provided the activities do not involve the removal or destruction of any significant above-ground features or sub-surface archaeological artefacts or deposits.
. The process of gardening and maintenance, mowing, hedge clipping, bedding displays, removal of dead plants, disease and weed control, emergency and safety works to care for existing plants and planting themes.
. Removal of dead or dangerous trees and emergency works to maintain public safety and to protect buildings and structures, provided notification is provided to the Executive Director within 21 days.
. Removal of vegetation that is not significant to maintain fire safety and to conserve significant buildings and structures.
. The replanting of plant species to conserve the landscape character and plant collections and themes.
. Repairs, conservation and maintenance to hard landscape elements, buildings, structures, fences, ornaments, roads and paths, drainage and irrigation system.
. Management of trees in accordance with Australian Standard; Pruning of amenity trees AS4373.
. Removal of plants listed as noxious weeds in the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994.
. Installation, removal or replacement of garden watering and drainage systems.
Public Safety and Security
The following public safety and security activities are permit exempt:
. Public safety and security activities provided the works do not involve the removal or destruction of any significant above-ground structures or sub-surface archaeological artefacts or deposits;
. The erection of temporary security fencing, scaffolding, hoardings or surveillance systems to prevent unauthorised access or secure public safety which will not adversely affect significant fabric of the place including archaeological features;
. Development including emergency stabilisation necessary to secure safety where a site feature has been irreparably damaged or destabilised and represents a safety risk to its users or the public.
Note: Urgent or emergency site works are to be undertaken by an appropriately qualified specialist such as a structural engineer, or other heritage professional.
Signage and Site Interpretation
The following Signage and Site Interpretation activities are permit exempt:
. Signage and site interpretation activities provided the works do not involve the removal or destruction of any significant above-ground structures or sub-surface archaeological artefacts or deposits;
. The erection of non-illuminated signage for the purpose of ensuring public safety or to assist in the interpretation of the heritage significance of the place or object and which will not adversely affect significant fabric including landscape or archaeological features of the place or obstruct significant views of and from heritage values or items;
. Signage and site interpretation products must be located and be of a suitable size so as not to obscure or damage significant fabric of the place;
. Signage and site interpretation products must be able to be later removed without causing damage to the significant fabric of the place; Note: The development of signage and site interpretation products must be consistent in the use of format, text, logos, themes and other display materials.Note: Where possible, the signage and interpretation material should be consistent with other schemes developed on similar or associated sites. It may be necessary to consult with land managers and other stakeholders concerning existing schemes and strategies for signage and site interpretation.
YAN YEAN WATER SUPPLY SYSTEM - Permit Exemption Policy
The purpose of the Permit Policy is to assist when considering or making decisions regarding works to the place. It is recommended that any proposed works be discussed with an officer of Heritage Victoria prior to making a permit application. Discussing any proposed works will assist in answering any questions the owner may have and aid any decisions regarding works to the place.
The extent of registration protects the whole place. The addition of new buildings and alterations to the place may impact upon its cultural heritage significance and requires a permit. The purpose of this requirement is not to prevent any further development on this site, but to enable control of possible adverse impacts on heritage significance during that process.
A Conservation Management Plan (CMP) was prepared for the Yan Yean Water Supply System in 2007. However, parts of the system have undergone major change since completion of the CMP. These changes have resulted from the upgrade works at Yan Yean and Toorourrong Reservoirs but particularly through the 'Black Saturday' bushfires of February 2009 which destroyed the following significant elements relating to the water supply system:
. Wallaby Creek Quarters: The fires destroyed all of the structures in the vicinity of the residence, including the c.1884 caretaker's residence, stables, the sleeping quarters added in 1928 while the site was used as an MMBW lodge, a 1930 kitchen and some more recent buildings. Some structural remnants have survived, and sub-surface archaeological deposits will no doubt remain, but most of the surface debris was removed because of asbestos. Some exotic plantings have also survived.
. Toorourrong Reservoir: The 1928-29 caretaker's cottage and park facilities including shelters, toilets, barbecues and walking tracks were destroyed by the fire, and many of the trees in the picnic areas were lost. Much of the vegetation in the catchment surrounding the reservoir was also destroyed by the fire or subsequently had to be felled, but this has now largely regrown.
The parts of the CMP that remain applicable should be used to assist the future management of the place.
Any Minor Works that in the opinion of the Executive Director will not adversely affect the heritage significance of the place may be exempt from the permit requirements of the Heritage Act. A person proposing to undertake minor works may submit a proposal to the Executive Director. If the Executive Director is satisfied that the proposed works will not adversely affect the heritage values of the site, the applicant may be exempted from the requirement to obtain a heritage permit. If an applicant is uncertain whether a heritage permit is required, it is recommended that the permits co-ordinator be contacted.