A meeting was held on Wednesday involving stakeholders concerned with the management of Lake Conjola. The meeting included Member for South Coast Shelley Hancock, Shoalhaven’s Mayor, Councillors and Council staff along with State Government representatives from various agencies and community representatives.
The Conjola Community Association representatives provided an overview of the data, that they had been collecting, regarding the lake and their expectations for the ongoing management of Lake Conjola.
Presentations were given by State Government Agency officers explaining the legislative requirements that Council must follow for the management of the lake. This included the requirements that must be followed for any lake opening or works in the channel.
Agencies confirmed that any review of the Lake Conjola Interim Entrance Management Policy must be done as part of the preparation of a Coastal Management Program (CMP) in accordance with the NSW Coastal Management Act. The preparation of a CMP will include community and stakeholder input.
Council has secured State Government funding for the preparation of a CMP, that includes Lake Conjola. However, participants at yesterday’s meeting agreed that Council should pursue grant funding for a stand-alone Lake Conjola CMP, so that greater focus can be given to all of the issues raised by the community, in relation to the management of the lake and lake entrance.
A number of matters, including the request from community and subsequent Council resolution to open the lake, a review of the lake management policy framework, requests for additional works (dredging and the like) in the ebb channel and requirements for the coastal management framework process were also discussed.
State Government agencies were very clear the legislative requirements that are in place for Council to follow, prior to any works occurring at the lake.
Agency representatives outlined that any requests regarding actions proposed to be undertaken for the management of the lake would be considered on their merit. A range of environmental, social and economic factors need to be addressed in any application made by Council to open the lake, outside of the current approved policy. Any decision would also be assessed against State Government legislation and current policy positions.
Having regard to the resolution of Council and sentiment expressed by the Conjola Community Association, an application to seek approval from the State Government agencies to open the lake outside of the existing policy, will be made.
Outcomes of the meeting were as follows:
- Council will immediately commence preparing an application for approval from the State government to remove “the channel plug” and create a managed lake opening, recognising that the level of the lake is below the policy trigger level. This application must clearly outline the reason for the proposed request including social and environmental impacts. In this regard, Council will be seeking community input to document current conditions around the Lake foreshore.
- The application will be forwarded to State agencies for determination.
- Council will also prepare a grant application to the State Government for the preparation of a Coastal Management Program for Lake Conjola
- The Coastal Management Program will include extensive community consultation and community representatives will be involved in the preparation of the scoping of this plan.
- A Coastal Management Program (CMP) normally takes two years to prepare and must be approved by State Government Agencies. A CMP outlines the options for actions that can be undertaken in managing the lake and must assess the impacts of any actions proposed. A CMP certified by the State Government allows for funding to be sought from State funding programs .
- Additional works (outside of a planned opening) such as dredging cannot occur without a current Coastal Management Program in place.
- A report will be collated by an independent facilitator and provided to Council and the community.
Council is continuing to work with the community within the legislative framework covering Coastal management.
Councils Director of Planning, Environment and Development, Phil Costello, stated “Wednesday's workshop was very productive in that it clearly set out the legislative requirements and State Government policy that we all need to work within, whilst at the same time having the communities concerns clearly put on the table."
" As a result, we have been able to come up with an agreed action plan and our staff have commenced to put the agreed actions in place. Its clear that we need to continue to talk with the community to get the outcomes we are all working towards”.