Lake Cathie/Innes Lake discussed at February 2020 council meeting

The lake filled up after recent rain, however the water quality has taken a toll on its inhabitants. Photo: Stewart Cooper.
The lake filled up after recent rain, however the water quality has taken a toll on its inhabitants. Photo: Stewart Cooper.

The ailing health of the Lake Cathie/Innes Lake estuary system has sparked passionate discussion by residents and councillors at the February 19 council meeting.

Resident and member of Revive Lake Cathie, Dave Curry addressed the meeting and labelled the management of the system as a fiasco.

Mr Curry said the group endorses the holistic approach by all stakeholders to the management of the system.

"This is absolutely true. What we do not endorse is the continual buck passing, inaction and failure while our marine life die daily," he said.

Mr Curry said having an updated and compliant Review of Environmental Factors (REF) for natural resources is in the interests of residents.

Before a licence is granted to open the lake, council must conduct a review of environmental factors (REF). The last time this was done for the waterway at Lake Cathie was 1995.

"This debacle is embarrassing," Mr Curry said.

"Having a non-compliant REF is a failure, which has made our council a laughing stock."

Saving Lake Cathie member and resident Stewart Cooper also addressed councillors and questioned why council had not yet opened the lake, given he believes there are some clauses within the 2007 Division 25 SEPP legislation - Clause 129 which would allow the action to occur.

Mr Cooper highlighted environmental and health issues at the lake, including the possibility for further fish kills. He said it's also now a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Mayor Peta Pinson addressed the meeting and said she is as frustrated as the community about the ongoing issue of Lake Cathie.

General manager Craig Swift-McNair was asked to provide an update of what stage the REF is currently up to.

Mr Swift-McNair said up until the most recent request, the 1995 REF has been sufficient to artificially open the lake. This is due to artificial openings occurring under conditions where flooding poses an issue for residents.

On January 31, a stakeholder meeting was held in Port Macquarie and Mr Swift-McNair said the purpose of this was to discover what barriers there are to obtaining a new REF.

He said it's going to be a very complex process because the requirements from the state government are immense.

The estimated cost for a REF to be completed would be in the hundreds of thousands dollars, according to Mr Swift-McNair.

Cr Pinson raised the issue of the mosquito infestation and asked acting director Dan Croft if whether this would be cause to open the lake, given it poses a health issue.

Mr Croft replied he didn't believe it would be the case.

"Thank you it was worth a try," Cr Pinson said in response.

Cr Intemann asked Mr Swift-McNair if it was possible for the state government to take over management of the lake, specifically opening of the lagoon, from council.

She said this should occur given the frustration council staff and residents are experiencing.

Mr Swift-McNair said it's something he thinks about everyday.

He pointed out the whole system is owned and managed by the state government and the opening of the lagoon is under council's control.

However, he said it still can't be opened without approval from the relevant stakeholders.

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