2019 NSW Election: Candidates share thoughts on Lake Cathie's water quality

Photo of Lake Cathie taken in March, 2019.
Photo of Lake Cathie taken in March, 2019.

The Camden Haven Courier surveyed readers about issues affecting their vote at the state election on March 23. Lake Cathie water quality, funding for local roads, jobs and employment, mental health and tourism/local industry made the top five.

The community continues to voice its concern over the condition of Lake Cathie's water quality and it's an issue which has made it a top priority for the state election. 

A spokesperson from the group said pelicans are leaving the lake as their food source and natural environment is dying.

"Dead fish, crabs, prawns, yabbies can be found lying all along the lake's foreshore to Lake Innes and are screaming for advocates to step up and take action to save them," the spokesperson said.

"The time for our community to step up is now."

Photo of Lake Cathie from February, 2019 by Lisa Willows.

Photo of Lake Cathie from February, 2019 by Lisa Willows.

NSW DPI Fisheries staff attended the site on Wednesday, February 27 and observed up to 1000 dead fish along a section of Lake Cathie. The area was isolated from the main body of the lake.

In 2018 Lake Cathie received funding to address erosion at the popular foreshore destination.

The funding came after Lake Cathie business owners expressed their concern over a decrease in people visiting the Lake Cathie area and the toll it had taken on their income.

On January 19, 2018 Minister for Lands and Forestry Paul Toole, Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams and Port Macquarie-Hastings Council Mayor Peta Pinson announced $350,000 would be allocated for the dredging project.

Mrs Williams said $175,000 had been provided through the NSW Government’s Rescuing Our Waterways program. Port Macquarie-Hastings Council also contributed $175,000.

About 21,000 cubic metres of sand was dredged and relocated to the edge of the Foreshore Reserve to reclaim open space that had been lost to erosion.

Dredging at Lake Cathie. Photo: Altitude Photographics

Dredging at Lake Cathie. Photo: Altitude Photographics

Sand was also relocated to replenish approximately 400 metres of the beach in front of Illaroo Road.

An excavator was used to clear a path to the ocean further south than the previous channel, in an effort to protect the recently replenished foreshore from high seas and tidal surges.

Rainfall led to the early artificial opening of Lake Cathie to the ocean, after it was originally scheduled to take place at the end of July, 2018.

Lake Cathie opens to the ocean. Photo: Altitude Photographics.

Lake Cathie opens to the ocean. Photo: Altitude Photographics.

The lake’s water level had risen beyond the 1.6 metre opening trigger point.

Council director Melissa Watkins said the safety of residents and protecting nearby homes and infrastructure from minor flooding was of the highest priority.

Members of the Lake Cathie Skate and Recreation Park said they were thrilled after the foreshore masterplan was approved at the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council February 21, 2018 meeting.

 All smiles: 11-year-old Levi Robinson can't wait to ride his scooter at the new skate and recreation park at Lake Cathie.

All smiles: 11-year-old Levi Robinson can't wait to ride his scooter at the new skate and recreation park at Lake Cathie.

“We feel so excited and relieved after all the work that all our committee and the Lake Cathie-Bonny Hills Lions Club has done,” committee member Clare Gray said.

“It’s a great result.”

Councillors were unanimous in their approval of the plan which received significant community input.

Features include a fenced playground, picnic areas, paths, a new toilet block, parking facilities and family skate and recreation park.

What candidates think about Lake Cathie's water quality: 

Nationals MP for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams addressed the issue at the Meet the Candidates event in Laurieton on Monday, March 11. 

Mrs Williams said she has lived at Lake Cathie for 22 years and the condition of the lake is the worse that many have seen for a long time.

She said people can agree that the bridges are the main issue at the lake. 

Mrs Williams believes the best option for any future action by a group is seek funding for the replacement of the Kenwood Drive bridge. 

She is looking forward to working with that group. 

Labor candidate Peter Alley said experts are required to give the best advice in terms of addressing the condition of Lake Cathie. 

Mr Alley said in his role at the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council he has been informed that it is not the best time to open the lake. 

Labor is calling for an inquiry into the Menindee fish kill and Mr Alley would lobby to see it expanded to also include Lake Cathie. 

"We need a proper inquiry into what has happened to ensure it never happens again," he said. 

Greens candidate Drusi Megget said she believes all the appropriate stake holders have to get together to discuss the best way forward for the lake. 

Drusi said she has been contacted by at least three people in relation to the issue and some want to let nature take its course, while others want intervention. 

She said ultimately if the community wants Lake Cathie's health to improve then something has to be done about climate change. 

Sustainable Australia candidate Jan Burgess said Lake Cathie’s opening is a difficult balance between the preserving the ecology of the area for the wildlife and residential amenity.

"The lake itself, with its protected water and foreshore area is a very valuable resource for local residents and visitors alike," she said. 

"When it is closed and the water quality deteriorates, even though safe, its usability is significantly reduced.

"When this happens over the holiday period, local businesses suffer badly.

"As the last review of the opening strategy was 2011, I believe it is time for an update, with the focus on having the lake opened for the holiday period."