South East Coastal Lakes Project

Identifying opportunities to better manage 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.

These lakes are important coastal landscapes that are poorly represented in our protected area system in South Australia. 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:

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.

Improved Management

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 1999, 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 include exploring their change in land tenure and elevation of status as part of the State’s protected area system.

The proclamation of the lakes as parks or reserves under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 would elevate their status as important and unique areas to be managed and protected, provide greater certainty about management objectives and facilitate government and other investment in their management. An additional opportunity to consolidate some of the lakes into one larger park may support the nomination of the lakes as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.

The key objectives of phase one of the engagement during April and May 2022 are 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 want to hear 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.

Opportunities to participate in the engagement include:

Have questions not covered here? Contact us at

What’s next?

Information gathering is the first phase of this project.

Once feedback is collected and summarised on the current uses and values of the lakes, further consultation will be conducted on draft recommendations.

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.

Adjacent parks management plans

Other projects in the area

There are other projects and programs happening in the area at the same time. This project aims to compliment those projects:

This community engagement project is supported by grant funding from the Nature Conservancy via the Wyss Foundation.