Port Macquarie-Hastings Council will not proceed with holding Wednesday afternoon's extraordinary meeting as it is now apparent that a quorum will not be present.
Council was informed on Tuesday morning of a late Councillor apology, resulting in a majority of Councillors not being present as required to conduct the meeting.
Tomorrow afternoon's item on the dredging of Lake Cathie will now be placed on the agenda for the Ordinary Council meeting on Wednesday 3 November.
The meeting will be held online at 5.30pm and it will be live streamed on Council's YouTube channel, which can be found at youtube.com/pmhcouncil.
Port Macquarie-Hastings mayor Peta Pinson has called for urgent action on the dredging of the lagoon at Lake Cathie.
She joins Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams and community advocacy group Revive Lake Cathie in calling for action at the lake before the Christmas holiday period.
Council currently holds a permit to dredge Lake Cathie once every five to 10 years for recreational purposes, as agreed to with NSW Crown Lands and as outlined in Council's Dredging Strategy 2007. This permit is part of a development application (DA).
Prompted by a request last year from the Member for Port Macquarie, council has now applied to modify this DA in order to better manage coastal hazards through dredging.
Having last dredged the lake back in 2018, council is not legally able to dredge again under its current permit for recreational purposes until 2023.
Mrs Williams spoke in Parliament on the Coastal Management Amendment Bill 2021.
Mrs Williams said the Bill aimed to amend the Coastal Management Act 2016. This will enable certified Coastal Zone Management Plans to remain in force to 31 December 2023, she said.
This means Port Macquarie-Hastings Council will be able to continue to implement actions in their Lake Cathie Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP), Mrs Williams said.
"These actions include providing community opportunities to enjoy our natural environment through reserve improvements, continuing public access, periodically dredging of Lake Cathie entrance and beach nourishment," Mrs Williams said.
"In November 2020, I wrote to the then acting general manager of Port Macquarie-Hastings Council Jeffrey Sharp asking that council give consideration to dredging the lagoon in the coming months for the purpose of beach nourishment on Illaroo Road.
"As well as replacing recent sand loss on the fore-dunes, this action would also provide the benefit of increasing the water depth within the lagoon which I believe would be advantageous during predicted heavy rainfall events expected during the summer months.
"The enhanced water volume within the lagoon would also likely have positive impacts on the next lake opening which of course many residents will be hoping for prior to the upcoming Christmas holiday season.
"That was last year and now again, given the very similar scenario of the lagoon being now closed, I ask that council again give consideration to dredging of the lagoon."
Saving Lake Cathie supports Mrs Williams' dredging request while Revive Lake Cathie has asked council to consider a pre-Christmas lake opening.
Key stakeholders met in November 2020 and agreed that due to the fragile health of the lake system, the first priority should be completion of the relevant stages of council's Coastal Management Plan (CMP).
Council director of infrastructure services Melissa Watkins said the lake, as an intermittently closed and open lake and lagoon (ICOLL), will naturally alternate between being open and closed to the ocean because of the sand berm at the entrance and catchment inflows from prolonged rainfall.
Ms Watkins said residents must understand that any artificial opening of the lake to the ocean often leads to a rapid drop in lake water levels.
"If that were to happen now, it would risk causing some of that iron-rich water to seep into the lake, potentially triggering another mass iron floc event, similar to what happened in 2020," she explained.
"Council is currently working on a long-term holistic plan, known as the Coastal Management Program (CMP), for the Lake Cathie/Lake Innes estuarine system by actively engaging with stakeholders, including the community, universities and State Government to understand the system and the impacts of long term management decisions."
Stage 2 (risks and opportunities) of the Lake Cathie and Bonny Hills CMP is expected to be completed in 2022, Stage 3-4 (evaluate and adopt) in 2023 and Stage 5 (implementation ) from 2025 and beyond.
Council said it is committed to its floodwater trigger point plan for the management of the waterway.
Cr Pinson said Lake Cathie was one of the 'recreational jewels' in the crown of the Port Macquarie-Hastings region.
"While there are nuances and complexities involved in the assessment of this application that involves multi-government agencies at both council and state level, it is important our community gets some certainty on this issue," she said.
"I am responding to the Member for Port Macquarie's request to dredge the lake and to update the community about the important work council has done to achieve a solution.
"I look forward to hearing the views of others in more detail."
Deputy Mayor Lisa Intemann supports the call for council to dredge Lake Cathie.
"I congratulate the Hon Leslie Williams MP for her success last week in amending the Coastal Management Act 2016," Cr Intemann said.
"That means the existing Lake Cathie Coastal Zone Management Plan stays in force for another two years, permitting dredging of the lake and the sand moved to protect the beach.
"I urge council to undertake this action sooner rather than later, while the lake is still closed."
Cr Intemann said she does not support artificial opening of the lake at this time.
"While we would all like to see the lake open, the lake system is still very vulnerable," she said.
"Current advice from Southern Cross University advises that a mechanical opening, at this time, risks having a detrimental impact.
"We should dredge now, while the lake is calm and closed.
"Locate the dredging both so as to help not hinder the lake as regards the preferred break-out point for when the lake does re-open, and to minimise any potential impact on acid sulphate soils."
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