is the largest estuary in New South Wales. It covers
some 640km² and
includes three large and many smaller creek systems
entering the Lake.
In addition to the wide range of
recreational activities that the Lake provides for
residents and visitors, it is also an important resource
for local industry providing cooling water for two
large coal fired power stations.
Following a period of rapid expansion and development
(with a population increase from 91,962 in 1961 to
the current population figure of 190,000), the early
1980's saw the start of widespread community concern
regarding the deteriorating health of Lake Macquarie.
In 1983, the then State Pollution Control Commission
undertook an investigation into the causes of poor
water quality. The report of this investigation
known as “The Environmental Audit of Lake Macquarie” identified
the causes of concern, highlighting the major problems
of sedimentation and nutrient enrichment. At the time,
accelerated sedimentation levels were estimated at
75,000 tonnes per annum and nutrient levels had shown
a substantial increase as a result of urbanisation.
There was an indication that the Lake was “in
the early phase of stimulated algal growth” and
the decreasing water clarity was suspected to have
been caused by increased densities of phytoplankton.
In 1995, an Estuary Process Study prepared for Lake
Macquarie City Council estimated that sediment loads
to Lake Macquarie were 57,000 tonnes per annum, which
was very different to the estimate of sediment loads
prior to European development at 6,600 tonnes per annum.
Two creek systems, Cockle and Dora Creeks, were estimated
to be contributing 23,900 and 11,000 tonnes per annum
Following completion of the Lake Macquarie Estuary
Management Plan in 1997, it was recommended that $40M
would be required over a 5-year timeframe to tackle
the ailing health of the Lake. At the same time,
there was widespread community concern about the continuing
problem of poor water quality in the estuary.
In 1998, the then Premier of NSW, the Hon. Bob Carr,
announced the formation of a Task Force under the Chairmanship
of Clean-up-Australia founder, Mr Ian Kiernan.
objectives of the Task Force were to:
- Review of the Lake Macquarie Estuary Management
Plan and recommend a priority action plan and appropriate
institutional arrangements for implementation;
and recommend strategies that would alleviate the
impact of development and urbanisation on Lake Macquarie.
The report of the Task Force, known as the ‘Integrated
Estuary and Catchment Management Framework was accepted
by State Cabinet in February 1999. The report recommended
a unique institutional arrangement for implementation
through the creation of the Office of the Lake Macquarie
and Catchment Coordinator. This cooperative-based arrangement
was a joint initiative of Lake Macquarie City Council,
Wyong Shire Council, and the State Government, with
major funding provided by these partners. To oversee
the implementation process, a committee known as the
Lake Macquarie Project Management Committee was appointed
by the then Minister of Land and Water Conservation.
The Committee consists of representatives of both councils;
community; regional directors of relevant government
departments and three ex-officio members.
The action plan itself had an emphasis on integration,
both physically and administratively, as well as promoting
a ‘whole of government’ approach and strong
The physical works concentrated on treating the cause
of the water problems in the Lake by tackling stormwater
runoff within the catchment. Again, the emphasis
adopted included the use of ‘soft engineering’ and
the restoration of natural ecological processes where
After six years in operation, the Lake Macquarie Project
Management Committee is now entering the third phase
of the Project.