First described by the local indigenous people of the Awabakal nation as Awaba or ‘plain surface’, Lake Macquarie is located on the central coast of NSW Australia. It is the state’s largest coastal lake and has a surface area of 110km2. The lake is surrounded by mix of urban, industrial and natural landscapes that make up the City of Lake Macquarie, which has a population of 205,000 living within the 750km2 catchment.
The lake is not only the dominate feature of the City’s geography, it is also central to the identity and lifestyle of residents. However, as a result of urbanisation, the lake has experienced increased inflows of sediment and nutrient pollution, modifications to foreshores and waterways, as well as the clearing of native vegetation and wetlands which significantly reduced lake health to the point that in the 1980s, it was on the verge of becoming eutrophic.
In response to a significant level of community concern, the Lake Macquarie Improvement Project was established in 1999. This project ran for a decade until 2009 when it ceased and responsibility for lake improvements was transferred to the local council and relevant state agencies. This project triggered a major turning-point in lake health, and the previously observed decline was halted and significant trends of improved health where observed by the mid 2000’s. This project was a finalist in both the Australian and International RiverPrizes, and won the Australian prize in 2008.
This presentation will recap on the history of the Lake Macquarie Improvement Project, as well as telling the story of what has happened in the 14 years since the RiverPrize. In particular, the presentation will focus on ways of building upon a successful history of lake improvements, whilst being able to address the new and emerging challenges and opportunities that face waterway managers. These challenges include adapting vulnerable lakeside communities to the threats posed by sea level rise and other coastal hazards. Opportunities include the use of innovative solutions and technology, as well as changing ways to engage and collaborate with residents and other stakeholders. The presentation will also present the key learnings and underlying philosophies that have contributed to making Lake Macquarie a healthy waterway which remains central to the lives of the local community