What We're Doing

This page is the place to keep up to date with the various environmental projects Great Lakes Council is involved with. These projects have all been made possible through the Great Lakes Environmental and Dredging Special Rate.

Further information on Great Lakes Council's current environmental projects can be found in the pages of the Creek to Coast newsletter.

On this page:

Tops to Lakes Initiative

The Tops to Lakes Initiative (T2L) aims to coordinate Council decisions regarding the management of important natural landscapes.   It provides a 'framework' for various environmental programs, and has been adopted by Council.

 The Great Lakes is filled with important natural assets and the environment is a vital part of the economy, both for tourism and primary production (oysters, fish, agriculture, and timber).

Because of this, we need a broad ranging project that connects all of our natural landscapes and enhances the ecosystem. It will benefit the community, the economy and the biodiversity of the region.  The initiative is not simply about wildlife corridors, but also concerns ecological resilience and functionality generally.  That means it's not simply a "green" project, but also recognises the need for vibrant and effective food production, industry and housing.  

View the Program Overview for Great Lakes Council's Tops to Lakes Initiative(PDF, 3MB).

Wallis Lake Sponges

Recent studies have identified areas of Wallis Lake as having exceptionally high ecological and water quality values.

The lake has been found to be home to some of the most diverse sponge communities in NSW lakes and lagoons, with at least eight species of sponges occurring in the southern basin of Wallis Lake alone.

The unique sponges found in Wallis Lake are particularly important as most are likely to be new to science and yet to be formally named. Many of the sponges depend on seagrass/macrophyte communities for habitat, and as Wallis Lake is home to about 20% of seagrass beds in NSW, scientists believe the ecosystem is worthy of protection.

Very little is known about the Wallis Lake sponges, so it's important that we conduct further research and community education. Council has got funding under the Federal Governments 'Caring for Our Country' program to carry out further research on Wallis Lake sponges, and to provide information to the community about how we can protect them and minimise the threats they face.

The project will complete a formal scientific assessment of the southern basin of Wallis Lake. This will examine the sponge, macrophyte and animal groups found there, as well as completing a full literature review for Wallis Lake. An expert panel of land managers, scientists and key agency members will run the project and look at the options for protecting the unique ecosystems in Wallis Lake.

Relevant project documents:

Summary of Ecological Information for the Wallis Lake Potential RAMSAR site(PDF, 2MB)

Sponges and Ascidians of the Southern Basin of Wallis Lake, NSW(PDF, 485KB)

Macrophytes, Fishes and Invertebrates of Wallis Lake, NSW(PDF, 1MB)

Great Lakes Coastal Catchment Initiative (CCI)

The Coast Catchments Initiative (CCI) was a Federal Government program that aiming for a reduction in land based pollution of coastal environments.

Our project was one of 8 across Australia. The purpose was to identify ways to reduce the impact of sediments, nutrients and faecal coliforms on Wallis, Smiths and Myall Lakes.

As a result of the initiative, Great Lakes Council produced a Water Quality Improvement Plan. This is the main plan for water quality improvement in the Great Lakes area. It outlines the actions required to protect and rehabilitate Wallis, Smiths and Myall Lakes.

The Coastal Catchments Initiative was delivered in partnership with the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water and guided by an Advisory Committee of community, industry and agency representatives.

This project was majority funded by the Australian Government through the Natural Heritage Trust.

Wetland Management

The Great Lakes contains several important coastal lake and estuary and wetland systems including Wallis Lake, Smiths Lake, Myall Lake and the northern foreshore of Port Stephens. Our economy relies on the health and quality of its environment and particularly the health of its rivers, estuaries and lakes.

We are currently working on a whole series of programs and actions that ensure wetlands in our region and the Wallis Lake catchment are appropriately looked after, and restored where needed. These projects are linked together through the Wallis Lake Wetland Strategy.

Recently Council (with support from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage) undertook an assessment of coastal saltmarsh habitat within Wallis Lake. Saltmarsh is a wetland vegetation community that exists in the 'intertidal' zone around our lakes and estuaries. It provides vital habitat and feeding resources for the inhabitants of the lake (which includes estuarine fisheries that are so economically important for the region). This habitat is under threat from foreshore development, grazing, as well as encroachment from mangroves.

Wallamba River Restoration

The Wallamba River has been subject to progressive restoration works to protect and reinforce the riverbanks from erosion. This is done through the construction of rock fillets and revetment at high risk sites and those subject to active erosion.

Rock fillets assist mangroves to regenerate along the eroding riverbanks, and once established provide a high level of erosion protection. To further strengthen the riverbanks, riparian areas are also replanted with native vegetation, weed control is carried out, and stock fencing is erected where possible to restrict cattle grazing.

These works are designed and implemented to reduce sediment runoff and improve water quality in the Wallamba River and downstream Wallis Lake.

Endangered Koalas in Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens

Council is working on a plan to protect and assist the recovery of the Hawks Nest - Tea Gardens koala population. They were listed as endangered in 1999.

Priority actions listed within the plan include:

1)      Detailed mapping of koala populations and habitat.

2)      Revegetation and tree planting.

3)      The development of a koala sighting database

4)      Preparing local survey and assessment guidelines

5)      Traffic calming and streetscaping to reduce koala fatalities.

6)      An education and awareness program. This program has a strong community focus and aims to establish effective working partnerships between Government, local businesses and the general community.

Relevant documents:

Hawks Nest - Tea Gardens Recovery Plan

2013 Who Cares About our Environment Survey?(PDF, 275KB)

Biodiversity Conservation

The Great Lakes is a region of significant biodiversity. Biodiversity is the variety of genes, species and their ecological communities, as well as their environments and processes. It's important for production and resources, and the ecological services which maintain the conditions for life.

If society continues to degrade biodiversity and natural processes, we undermine our own way of life and compromise future generations.

We consider biodiversity throughout our decision-making processes, including development assessment, strategic planning, catchment/estuary management and the management of reserves.

We are developing a Biodiversity Strategy to proactively maintain, improve and restore biodiversity in the Great Lakes region.

Threatened Species Management

Council has a responsibility to protect and restore threatened biodiversity both  through planning, and participation in recovery programs.

The Great Lakes is home to 31 threatened plants, 80 threatened animals, 3 endangered populations and 12 endangered ecological communities.

We have key legal responsibilities, along with other agencies and organisations, to assist in the recovery and management of these identified threatened species. We consider the protection of these species in all relevant strategic and development planning decisions and activities.

Environmental Special Rate - ESR

This special rate increase of 3.89% was introduced in 2001 to fund environmental projects/works throughout the Great Lakes.

 The ESR has funded the following projects: