Lake Illawarra is a significant natural asset for the region, and is highly valued by the community.
The Lake and its immediate surrounding environment were managed by the Lake Illawarra Authority from 1988 to 2014. In July 2014, the Authority was disbanded and its responsibilities were transferred to Wollongong and Shellharbour councils and a number of State Agencies.
The activities of both Wollongong and Shellharbour Councils have an impact on the health and condition of Lake Illawarra, as its catchment lies across both Local Government Areas (LGAs).
Both councils have agreed to collaborate to ensure the judicious management of the Lake and its surrounds into the future and, to this end, have established a Lake Illawarra Estuary Management Committee.
The Committee is made up of elected officials from both councils, state government agency representatives, independent scientific advisors as well as community and aboriginal representatives.
The responsibilities and functions of the Lake Illawarra Estuary Management Committee are to:
- assist Wollongong City and Shellharbour City Councils to develop a Coastal Zone Management Plan for Lake Illawarra in accordance with the NSW Government guidelines;
- develop a better understanding of estuary health and identify issues which need to be addressed;
- assist in developing suitable strategies to address estuary and coastal zone management issues;
- monitor and evaluate the implementation of the Coastal Zone Management Plan; and
- provide advice on planning proposals and major capital works proposed to take place in the Lake Illawarra catchment.
Routine operational and maintenance matters relating to Lake Illawarra will not be the business of the Lake Illawarra Estuary Management Committee. These matters are to be followed up using the existing Customer Service functions operating at Wollongong City and Shellharbour City Councils.
Information about the Committee including minutes of meetings is available on our meetings page
For more information please contact the Lake Illawarra Project Officer, Kristy Blackburn via Wollongong City Council on (02) 4227 7111.
Lake Illawarra Water Quality and Estuary Health Monitoring Program
Wollongong City Council has been coordinating the monitoring of water quality and estuary health in Lake Illawarra since October 2013. Project partners are Wollongong City Council, Shellharbour City Council, the University of Wollongong, Manly Hydraulics Laboratory, and the Office of Environment and Heritage. The project is currently funded by both councils and the State government.
Three reports on the monitoring results have been prepared to date, and these are available below. The main findings so far are:
- Water quality and the estuary health conditions are variable across the lake.
- There is significant nutrient enrichment in the more enclosed north-east and south-west sections of the lake. The rest of the lake does not appear to have this issue.
- The estuary health condition generally reflects this same pattern, with the central body of the lake being in better condition than the margins and more enclosed extremities. However, the condition assessment is based only chlorophyll a and turbidity. Other indicators of estuary health, such as fish assemblages and vegetation status, are also important.
- The condition of the lake appears to decline in high rainfall years, suggesting that catchment runoff plays a major role in determining estuary health.
- The lake appears to have become more saline since the permanent lake entrance was installed.
The monitoring reports will inform the development of a management plan for the lake.