The council will urgently review the Lake Cathie Opening Strategy to reduce the high level opening trigger.
The review is to drop the high level opening trigger from 1.6 metres to 1.4 metres to mitigate flood impacts on Port Macquarie-Hastings Council infrastructure, and include as a high priority, consideration of poor water quality and public health.
Mayor Peta Pinson put the issue of opening Lake Cathie on the agenda at an extraordinary council meeting on Thursday (January 13).
The revised strategy is due to come back to the February council meeting. The council requested its CEO act on traditionally opening the lake on the level reaching the 1.4m trigger and when the tide is right, in line with the revised opening strategy.
The council also voted to urgently seek the appropriate approvals for a traditional opening of the lake, if closed and/or water quality has been determined to be a risk to public health and marine life, in preparation for the start of the December 2022 holidays, and then annually.
There is a caveat. Any opening of the lake depends on council first obtaining relevant approvals and meeting legislative requirements.
Cr Pinson said the community and tourists made it clear how they felt about the lake.
"I feel it's incumbent on this new council moving forward into our future to ensure we are managing the lake to uphold the health of the lake, the marine life within it, the environment surrounding it but also the enjoyment of it," Cr Pinson said.
She said the decision would demonstrate to our community that the council was serious about management of the lake.
Council director Melissa Watkins, in response to a question from Cr Rachel Sheppard, said a revised draft opening strategy would be developed and presented to council.
The exhibition process would include referring the draft document to relevant government stakeholders and agencies.
Cr Sheppard put forward an amendment which included a request for the CEO to provide a councillor briefing on the relevant considerations so the councillors could debate the matter at the February meeting.
The amendment was lost.
Cr Lisa Intemann, who raised the inclusion of expediting the Coastal Management Program, welcomed a clause in the motion which noted that any opening of the lake relied on council obtaining approvals and meeting legislative requirements.
Chief executive officer Dr Clare Allen has been asked to host a meeting with councillors and key government agencies/officers to discuss the lake's future management.
The council will continue to pursue the option to dredge the lake for recreational purposes and beach nourishment.
The council also agreed to request the CEO to expedite the Coastal Management Program.
The decision was carried seven votes to two.
Community groups respond to council decision
Revive Lake Cathie president Kate Aston said they felt bringing the matter before the extraordinary council meeting was proof of the new council's urgency to address the issue.
The group is feeling optimistic about the path ahead.
Ms Aston said they hoped the measures were implemented urgently and this motion wasn't held back until completion of the Coastal Management Program.
Saving Lake Cathie spokesperson Stewart Cooper said Saving Lake Cathie would be extremely interested in the response of the state agencies to the motion.
"Unfortunately the Lake Cathie community needs to recognise that while the motion has passed, it requires approval by the state agencies of any opening of the lake," he said.
Mr Cooper said Saving Lake Cathie believed completing the Coastal Management Program for Lake Cathie was the only way for the council to get back management control of the lake system.
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