Petition to keep Lake Cathie open may be all for nothing

AN online petition calling on Port Macquarie-Hastings Council to keep Lake Cathie open may fall on deaf ears.

On January 23 a Facebook page called Keep the Lake Open - Lake Cathie began and supplied a change.org petition link to www.keepthelakeopen.com for visitors to sign.

The petition went viral. In just two days around 700 people had signed the petition.

"The lake at Lake Cathie is the 'Jewel in the Crown' of the Hastings," states the petition website.

"When the lake is open it attracts tourists and families from near and far to picnic on it's foreshore and swim in its crystal clear waters.

"It brings the community together and offers a safe place to swim for both young and old. It provides the opportunity for endless recreational activities, such as kayaking, fishing, prawning, snorkelling, boating and more.

"The town undergoes a major transformation when the lake is open, with so many visitors to the lake, all providing a much needed boost for local shops and businesses.

"The lake and its foreshore 'come to life' and there's a hive of activity and a really 'positive vibe' throughout the town. The estuarine system also comes alive when the lake is open to the ocean and is visibly healthier with more fish, more birds and more prawns.

"This all changes when the lake is closed, 'everything stops', the visitors stop coming, the lake goes black, the foreshore is empty, businesses suffer...... and its never very long before the the flooding of local roads and properties begins."

Matt Rogers, the council's director of Development and Environment Services, said the council had studied the management of the lake's entrance in coming up with a management strategy.

"Port Macquarie-Hastings Council has been through a comprehensive process of determining how the entrance of Lake Cathie/Innes should be managed," Mr Rogers said.

"Council has an Entrance Opening Strategy which is based on opening the lake entrance at a trigger level of 1.6mAHD, which takes into account issues such as local flooding and importantly, the level of water at which an opening will last for the longest possible period of time.

"The Entrance Opening Strategy was reviewed in 2011 using the latest modelling software to test that the current approach provided the best long-term outcome of the Lake and the community. The modelling confirmed that an opening trigger level of 1.6mAHD was still appropriate.

"It is important to note that Lake Cathie/Innes is a particular type of coastal lake (an ICOLL - intermittently closed and open lake or lagoon) and the lake environment relies on periods of open and closed entrance conditions to be sustained.

"It is also important to note that whenever the lake is open, sand moves into the entrance from the beach. The lake has insufficient catchment area to sustain flows that can flush the entrance. In order to keep the lake permanently open, a permanent dredging program would be required. Under the current strategy, dredging has occurred about once every 8-9 years at a cost of $200-300K for each dredging project."

The Camden Haven Courier asked the council if the petition would make a difference to how council manages the lake. 

"Council respects the right of members of the community to petition on various issues of local interest," Mr Rogers said.

"However, the council’s Entrance Opening Strategy is based on sound coastal management principles which seek to balance environmental and social considerations and is therefore unlikely the petition will impact council's policy position."

Interested stakeholders are encouraged to visit Council's website and read the Lake Cathie Entrance Opening Strategy to learn more about how and why the entrance is managed the way it is.

Supporter comment from the petition website:

Leanne Higgins: The lake is a large part of my childhood. Having grown up in Cathie I spent most of my time swimming, fishing/jagging, canoeing,crabbing, prawning and dare I say jumping off the bridge (Sorry Mum). I now raise my children hoping they'll have the same childhood memories however it's unfortunate that the lake seems to be closed more often than open and there's no way I let my kids swim in the lice infested, stagnant brown water. There are no negative reasons as to why it shouldn't permanently be opened apart from financial. Over the years I've witnessed so many temporary openings that are just quick fixes. The time has come to address the matter once and for all.

Connie Fehlau: I know many people who are affected by the Lake Closing. The argument that it's a natural oocurrance is a pointless argument as once man has interfered by way of bridges that are too small, dredging and changes to other beaches nature can no longer perform as it did.

Janine Roberts: [When closed] It fills with algae and bird lice which has detrimental health affects on those who do venture in.

Kelly King: Our property floods once the lake reaches 1.2m! We have wait until it reaches 1.6m before Council will even consider opening the lake. Our property has been partially under water for 5 months of the 15 months we have lived here.

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