The Lake Illawarra Authority (LIA) was a NSW statutory authority that managed Lake Illawarra successfully for over 25 years.
However in late 2012, the NSW Government announced a review into whether the authority had met its key objectives and how to manage the lake into the future. The review was scheduled to be released in January 2013, however months later the lake’s management was still in limbo and the public were left in the dark over the lake’s future.
Finally, in June 2013 that NSW government announced the LIA would be abolished.
The review considered three model options for the future management of Lake Illawarra: retaining the LIA; establishing the lake as a state park with a trust in place to manage it; or transferring responsibility to Wollongong and Shellharbour councils and state government departments. The review recommended the third option, which included the creation of an ‘estuary management committee’ to replace the LIA.
Since the announcement of the review in 2012, Anna has called for the Lake Illawarra Authority review to be subject to further community consultation, including the Minister providing the local community with an opportunity to comment on the review report and its recommendations prior to any final decisions being made by the NSW government.
There were concerns that by abolishing the LIA, the management of Lake Illawarra will revert back to the ‘bad old days’ of the 1980s when no-one accepted responsibility for the waterway or its foreshore and simply passed the buck, like a game of ping-pong.
In mid-2014 the NSW Liberal Government wiped its hands of the establishment of an estuary management committee for Lake Illawarra, saying it was now the total responsibility of Wollongong and Shellharbour City Councils to determine. This stitch up of both local councils meant they were forced to re-allocate their own already scarce resources from local roads and community services to Lake Illawarra.
A year after deciding to scrap the Lake Illawarra Authority, the NSW Government still had not established an estuary management committee for Lake Illawarra. It become like the legend of the Loch Ness Monster – much discussed but seldom seen.
A subsequent stand-off between Wollongong and Shellharbour Councils over the future management of Lake Illawarra called into question the continued good management of the Illawarra’s most prominent waterways. The NSW Government alone bore responsibility for this chaos.
“Both Councils should be rejecting any cost-shifting burden onto the shoulders of ratepayers and demand guaranteed funding and clear governance arrangements for Lake Illawarra by the State Government before doing anything else,” Anna Watson said, “Otherwise, the ratepayers in both local government areas are going to be pinged for decades with responsibility for deteriorating water quality and foreshore access.”
But the continued hands-off approach of the NSW Government meant both Councils had no choice despite “concerns relating to the resource implications of this transfer” but to, in 2015, “agree to collaborate to ensure the judicious management of the Lake and its surrounds into the future” and establish the Lake Illawarra Estuary Management Committee.
However, each year, the resources required to progress the work of the Committee is considered and made available by one or both Councils, in line with their budgetary constraints and other business priorities.
After all of the improvements to water quality and the Lake’s foreshores over the last 25-years, we need to ensure we get the management of the Lake is right for the future. There was never a good reason presented by the NSW Government to abolish the Lake Illawarra Authority.
Anna has called on the NSW Government to guarantee its own funding for Lake Illawarra’s management or to re-establish the Lake Illawarra Authority. She will continue to monitor Lake Illawarra and its management and hold the Government to account to ensure its health, maintenance and sustainability.
The waters of Lake Illawarra are all within the electorate of Shellharbour.