A process is in motion to open Lake Cathie to the sea in an unprecedented move at a time of low water levels and extreme environmental factors.
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council today (November 21) lodged a short-term licence application with Crown Lands to open the ailing lake to the ocean.
A packed public gallery heard the debate and the decision setting out the steps to open the lake after Peta Pinson put forward a mayoral minute to the council meeting on Wednesday (November 20).
Cr Pinson said the lake had been deteriorating day by day, week by week, month by month.
She said opening the lake was not only the right thing to do but it was the expected thing to do by our community.
Cr Justin Levido questioned the mayor as to why the council would open the lake, "bearing in mind the incredible negative consequences".
"We have low water, high salinity, poor water quality, marine life dying and fish kills almost on a daily basis," Cr Pinson said in response.
"We have a community that's crying out to be heard and asking us to do this."
Cr Pinson said she supported the council's process with the stakeholders but she also supported the Camden Haven community.
Cr Lisa Intemann says the council is in uncharted waters as this has never been done before at a low water level, and while the outcome is unknown, she is really hoping for the best.
The deputy mayor said she supported the lake opening because the whole lake system was in a very bad health position and the council was doing what it could regarding the long-term solutions in consultation with stakeholders.
"We are in fact damned if we do and damned if we don't on this," she said.
Director Melissa Watkins said whatever way the council decided to go, there would be an impact.
The lake opening's potential negative impacts could range from fish kills to acid leaching into the lagoon as well as the prospect the lake opening could be short-lived due to sand being drawn into the lagoon.
Ms Watkins said there was already an environmental issue.
"There is some limited potential success for opening and it will be short-term," Ms Watkins said.
Revive Lake Cathie president Danielle Maltman said the group supported the council's decision.
She said it was the right decision in the short-term while all the stakeholders looked at the holistic approach for the Lake Cathie-Lake Innes estuarine system.
Revive Lake Cathie continues to seek community group involvement in future stakeholder meetings.
The council will seek the support of Oxley MP Melinda Pavey and Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams to fast track the short-term licence application due to extreme environmental factors.
Mrs Williams welcomed the council's decision about the lake opening.
"I know how much it means to not only Lake Cathie, but more broadly, across the Port Macquarie-Hastings," she said.
"It was a decision that was needed to be made."
Mrs Williams said the government would get on with making sure the application went through.
The council will engage a contractor to open the lagoon entrance at the appropriate times, subject to licence approval.
Cr Justin Levido and Cr Peter Alley were against opening the lake.
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