South East Coastal Lakes Project
Identifying management opportunities for the South East coastal lakes
Along the coastline in the South East of South Australia there are a number of coastal lakes that provide important habitat for waterbirds and have unique features that are highly valued by First Nations people and the wider community.
The Department for Environment and Water (DEW) is undertaking an engagement and planning process to identify opportunities to manage the lakes to ensure their unique features and values are protected and maintained into the future.
This includes considering how to balance opportunities for people to enjoy the lakes through activities such as fishing, boating, hunting, camping, walking, birdwatching and windsurfing, with environmental and cultural heritage values.
Lakes included in the project are:
The Boandik / Bunganditj people are the Traditional Owners of the lands where the coastal lakes are located.
Valued by many
The lakes are valued country for First Nations people and have sites of cultural significance and provide important places for totems and cultural practices.
The lakes provide important habitat for a range of waterbirds including a number of migratory species listed on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and species of national and state conservation significance. Migratory shorebirds from the Northern Hemisphere use it as an important habitat area on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.
The lakes also provide important recreation opportunities including bird watching, hunting, walking, camping, windsurfing, boating and fishing. The lakes are becoming increasingly popular with tourists from both within South Australia and interstate. Beachport and Robe have increased in popularity being attractive beachside towns, further increasing visitation to the lakes.
The South East coastal lakes and much of the surrounding land is unalienated Crown land managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service SA under the Crown Land Management Act 2009.
A number of community groups and individuals have made important contributions to the lakes’ management for many years. Looking at opportunities for improved management will build on this work and help manage impacts from altered hydrology, adjoining and upstream agricultural land use and unregulated recreation activities.
Historical discussions about the lakes
Identifying opportunities to better manage the lakes is not new and has been discussed and to some extent implemented over a number of decades.
In 1980, the South East Wetlands Committee was tasked with planning regional water resource management and asked for submissions from anyone with ideas on any aspect of conservation or recreational uses of wetlands. Over four years, the committee investigated over 80 sites and in 1984 reported on recommendations for future management of each site. Examples of this include water quality improvements at Lake Bonney and the preparation of the Lake Bonney Management Plan.
In 1991, the then Department of Lands wrote The South East Coastal Lakes Strategy, which undertook similar exercise over the lakes mentioned above. The strategy outlines goals to determine each lakes future and priorities for management plans.
In 2019, the South East Drainage and Wetlands Strategy was published, as an overarching guide for the improved management of surface water and wetlands.
This current project is an opportunity to bring all the previous work together, alongside the feedback from the current consultation to deliver the best possible management outcomes for the lakes.
Options for management and your input
Opportunities for management of the lakes includes understanding the current arrangements, exploring potential changes in land tenure, and consideration of other management arrangements suggested during the consultation.
We want to provide greater certainty about management objectives for the lakes and facilitate government and other investment in their management.
The key objectives of phase one of the engagement during April and June 2022 were to:
- better understand how the lakes are currently used
- understand how the lakes are valued
- identify opportunities to better manage the lakes to maintain their unique and iconic natural features while providing access for their ongoing enjoyment.
To help identify opportunities to manage the South East coastal lakes we heard from you about:
- how you currently use the lakes
- what you value about the lakes
- how you think the lakes could be managed in the future to ensure they can be used and enjoyed while maintaining and protecting their unique and iconic features.
- an online workshop on the evening of Tuesday 17 May
- a regional workshop in Millicent on the evening of Thursday 16 June 2022
- an online survey, for those unable to make it to the workshops — survey closed 19 June 2022.
- targeted meetings with key stakeholder groups.
Have questions not covered here? Contact us at DEWProtectedAreaManagement@sa.gov.au.
Information gathering is the first phase of this project.
Information and stakeholder input from phase one will be collected and collated for the Minister for Climate, Environment and Water’s consideration ahead of Phase two.
Phase two consultation will include public consultation on a proposal outlining management options for the coastal lakes. Details on this consultation phase will be made available after Phase one is complete.
Phase two is expected to take place in 2023.
Background, related projects and further information
Selected background information including previous strategies, management plans for parks adjacent lakes, and migratory bird action plans related to the lower lakes can be found below.
- South Eastern Wetlands Committee (1984). Wetland resources of the South East of South Australia — investigations of wetland areas in the South East of South Australia for conservation and recreation uses. South Eastern Wetlands Committee, Adelaide (available in hardcopy only).
- The South East Coastal Lakes Strategy, Lands SA, 1991
- Drainage and Wetlands Strategy 2019
- All Wetlands Great and Small – A guide to the wetlands diversity of the South East
- Migratory Shorebird Site Action Plans
Adjacent parks management plans
- Beachport Conservation Park, adopted 1990
- Canunda National Park adopted 1990 and amended 1993
- Lake St Clair Conservation Park, adopted 2011
- Little Dip Conservation Park management plan — Adopted 1992, Amended 1997 and Amended 2020
Other projects in the area
There are other related projects and programs happening in the area. The South East Coastal Lakes project aims to compliment those projects:
- Healthy Coorong Healthy Basin On-Ground Works, Lake Hawdon North
- See also: The Lake Hawdon North Study
- The Lake George Flow Restoration Feasibility Study
This community engagement project is supported by grant funding from the Nature Conservancy via the Wyss Foundation.