PORT Macquarie-Hastings Council's coastal management plan (CMP) will play a key role in guiding the future management of the Lake Cathie and Lake Innes estuarine system.
Councillors unanimously agreed at the December ordinary council meeting, after a motion was put forward by deputy mayor Lisa Intemann, to develop a communications plan that clearly outlines the crucial role the CMP will play in decision making to restore the health of both waterways.
It was agreed residents must understand the roles and responsibilities of council and the various state government departments in managing the estuarine system, including a simple summary of land/water ownership and responsibilities.
It was also decided that works to avoid flooding effects on footpaths and other public assets managed by council be considered in the 2021-22 operational plan. Currently, council infrastructure is impacted by floodwater below the 1.6m AHD trigger level for an assisted opening of the Lake Cathie lagoon.
Cr Intemann said after a meeting convened by Revive Lake Cathie between the mayor, some councillors, concerned residents, community advocacy groups, scientists and key stakeholders on November 27, it was agreed that due to the fragile health of the lake system, the first priority should be completion of the relevant stages of council's CMP.
"No significant physical actions should be undertaken (to the lake) until the overarching studies of the CMP are done, as well as assessment of exactly what actions should be prioritised in the system," Cr Intemann said.
"Council should be proactive in explaining to the community the what and why of its intended approach and priority for the lake system. That is both in regards to giving priority to the CMP, and stepping back for the moment from traditional intervention actions such as lagoon dredging and opening the entrance to the ocean.
"As there are already calls for both dredging and opening of the lake, this information and explanation program should be commenced as soon as possible.
"We need to do the studies, get the data, assess the information and decide what is going to be the priority action for the lake system that will bring greatest benefit for the lake, its long term health and do the least amount of damage.
"It's also important, that based on information we already have, there is strong agreement that probably one of first actions that should be undertaken is to close Lake Innes to protect Lake Cathie from ravages of acid sulphate soils.
"There are various other physical interventions proposed - updating Kenwood Drive bridge, dredging and opening the lagoon to ocean, but it was definitely agreed that for the health and safety of the system we should do this study first.
"The lake system is much loved by many residents in this area and by many tourists and it absolutely needs significant work done to it to restore it to health.
"I trust that focusing on the studies through the coastal management program will set us on the right path and I ask residents to be patient as we go through those studies as quickly as possible."
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