Frequently asked questions

What is the purpose of the project?

The South East Coastal Lakes and much of the surrounding lands are unalienated Crown land managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service SA. The aim of this project is to consider future management opportunities for the South East coastal lakes (Lake Bonney SE, Lake George, Mullins Swamp, Lake St Clair, Lake Eliza, Lake Hawdon North), ensuring they are conserved and enjoyed by future generations. The project will engage with the community and stakeholders to understand how people use and value the lakes, identify the environmental assets, needs, and risks, and to explore areas for improvement in the management of the lakes into the future.

Who initiated the project / what are the drivers behind the project?

This project was initiated by the Department for Environment and Water with approval from the Minister for Environment and Water. There have been a number of reviews, strategies and recommendations about the coastal lakes over many years. This project will build on and finalise the extensive work that has already been done.

The lakes included in the project are important coastal ecosystems that provide nationally and internationally important habitat for shorebirds and waterbirds and have unique features that are highly valued by the community. As a result of altered hydrology from the drainage network and the effects of a changing climate, these coastal lakes are the largest remaining permanent and seasonally inundated water bodies in the region. As the impacts from climate change continue to increase, it is essential to manage the lakes to ensure their unique features are protected and maintained into the future.

This project is a chance to review the six lakes as a connected system, rather than focusing on one lake at a time. While the project will look at all six lakes, management options may vary between lakes (see Will all lakes be treated the same? below).

Will the project consider any other lakes?

No. The project will only consider Lake Bonney SE, Lake George, Mullins Swamp, Lake St Clair, Lake Eliza, and Lake Hawdon North. A number of other lakes nearby are proclaimed as parks under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (e.g., Lake Robe Game Reserve, Lake Hawdon South Conservation Park). No changes are proposed for the existing management arrangements for those lakes.

What are the phases of the project?

There are three phases of the project, which are summarised below:

Phase 1

Early engagement and information collection

Understanding how the lakes are currently used and valued

Community aspirations regarding management

Report based on information gathered during Phase 1

Phase 2

Provide Phase 1 report to the Minister for Climate, Environment and Water

Develop potential management options with the Minister

Develop proposal outlining management options

Public consultation on the proposal and options

Phase 3

Review consultation feedback from Phase 2

Prepare consultation report

Finalisation of options with the Minister

Decision by the Minister

What is the project timeline?

The project launched in the second half of 2021. Phase 1 is expected to be completed by 30 June 2022. Phase 2 is expected to take place in the second half of 2022 with Phase 3 to follow in late 2022 and early 2023.

How will the community be engaged throughout the project?

As part of the project, we will be undertaking two phases of consultation. Phase 1 (March-June 2022) is primarily about information gathering. The key objectives of consultation during Phase 1 are:

  • 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.

We are providing several different ways for stakeholders to participate in Phase 1, both online and in person:

  • Targeted meetings with key stakeholder groups
  • An online workshop on 17 May 2022 (in lieu of cancelled regional workshops in May). This sought input from participants via online questions and comments.
  • An in-person workshop at the Civic and Arts Centre in Millicent in the evening of Thursday 16 June 2022. This will include round table workshop activities to collect information from attendees.
  • An online survey, for those who are unable to participate in any other activities or wish to provide additional detail.

While the format and structure of each of the consultation activities may differ, all methods will be providing the same information about the project and seeking the same input from stakeholders, primarily:

  • how you currently use the lakes
  • what you value about the lakes
  • priority management activities you think should occur at the Lakes
  • would you like to see anything change at the lakes in the future
  • 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.

Input gathered from all of the above activities will be given the same consideration. Input from phase 1 will be collected and collated for the Minister for Climate, Environment and Water’s consideration ahead of Phase 2.

Phase 2 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 1 is complete.

Who is being consulted?

The project team will be engaging with a wide range of people and organisations that have an interest in the management of the lakes. This includes:

Traditional Owners

Local councils

Adjacent landholders / licence and lease holders

Recreational users (e.g., fishing, hunting, walking, water sports, boating, four-wheel driving)

Environmental groups (e.g. environmental NGOs)

Volunteers (e.g., Friends of Parks groups)

Local management groups (e.g. Lake George Management Committee)

Local community members

Other state government agencies and boards, including the Limestone Coast Landscape Board and the South Eastern Water Conservation and Drainage Board

The project team is also working with other areas of the Department for Environment and Water that have an interest in the project area or are working on related projects.

Who will make decisions about the future of the coastal lakes?

The Minister for Climate, Environment and Water administers the Crown Land Management Act 2009 and will be the ultimate decision maker on any future management arrangements for the South East coastal lakes. Information and feedback from the consultation phases will be provided to the Minister to inform these decisions.

Have decisions already been made about the future of the coastal lakes?

No decisions have been made to change the management arrangements for the lakes. We are seeking the community’s views to consider whether changes should be made. Ultimately the Minister for Climate, Environment and Water will make decisions on any change to the current management regime for the lakes or an individual lake.

What are the current tenure and management arrangements for the coastal lakes?

Tenure

All the lakes are unalienated Crown land, except for Mullins Swamp which is dedicated Crown land (dedicated to the South Eastern Water Conservation and Drainage Board).

Crown land is administered under the Crown Land Management Act 2009. This Act provides limited management powers to regulate activities and manage any adverse impacts on the lakes (such as unregulated camping, cutting of vegetation, and driving off-track) and provides no long term protection of the environment or requirement on government to manage the lakes in any particular way.

Management arrangements

The National Parks and Wildlife Service South Australia (NPWS SA) is responsible for managing both protected parks/reserves and unalienated Crown land.

All the lakes in this project are managed by the NPWS SA, except for Mullins Swamp which is managed by an adjacent landholder on behalf of the South Eastern Water Conservation and Drainage Board.

In addition, management of Lake George is supported by the local community through the Lake George Management Committee (LGMC), a committee under the Beachport District Development Association.

What future tenure and management options is the Department considering?

There are a number of potential future management options that will be considered, including any options that are identified during consultation. Different options may be considered for each lake and even within each lake.

A combination of some of the following options may be considered across the Lakes:

Option

Description

No change

Lake(s) remain as Crown land and existing management arrangements continue (Crown land managed by the NPWS SA, role of Lake George Management Committee unchanged)

Lake(s) dedicated as conservation reserve(s) under the Crown Land Management Act 2009

Recognition under the Crown Land Management Act that the lake(s) are being managed for conservation. No changes to access or level of protection. Role of Lake George Management Committee unchanged.

Lake(s) protected under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972

Reserve categories include:

Game Reserve

Areas protected to conserve habitats and wildlife while allowing for seasonal hunting during prescribed periods. Other recreation activities such as camping, walking, fishing, boating can be supported.

Conservation Park

Areas protected for the purpose of conserving wildlife or the natural or historic features of the land. Recreation activities such as camping, walking, fishing, boating can be supported.

National Park

Areas considered to be of national significance due to wildlife, natural features of the land, or Aboriginal or European heritage. National Parks provide opportunities for public recreation and enjoyment, as well as nature-based tourism.

Recreation Park

Areas managed for conservation, public recreation and enjoyment in a natural setting, often in modified habitat. A higher emphasis on recreational activities.

NB: NPWS SA could continue to work with the Lake George Management Committee to deliver management outcomes for Lake George if proclaimed as a park or reserve

Lake(s) nominated as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention

The Ramsar Convention encourages the designation of sites containing representative, rare or unique wetlands, or wetlands that are important for conserving biological diversity. Once designated, these sites are added to the Convention's List of Wetlands of International Importance and become known as Ramsar sites.

Other management options identified during consultation

The project team will consider any proposals put forward for consideration as part of this consultation process.

Will all lakes be treated the same?

It is clearly emerging from early consultation that the lakes are used and valued in different ways. For this reason a ‘one size fits all’ approach to future management options is unlikely to be appropriate across the six lakes. The different values and uses will be considered as management options are worked through in Phase 2 and this may ultimately mean that management arrangements vary from lake to lake.

Will the project consider options to sell the Crown land or allow developments on or around the lakes?

The purpose of this project is to ensure the coastal lakes remain an asset for the community and the environment into the future. It is intended that the lakes remain as public land and will not be sold to private owners.

No development is currently proposed however, where public consultation identifies a need for new or upgraded visitor facilities (e.g. better defined camp sites, walking trails, day visitor areas) these may be considered in future.

Will changes to management arrangements prohibit certain activities from happening at the lakes?

The majority of activities currently enjoyed at the coastal lakes can be undertaken both on Crown land or within reserves under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972. This includes recreational fishing, boating, windsurfing, four-wheel driving and hiking/walking.

Hunting of duck and quail can only be undertaken on public land that is designated as a Game Reserve or unalienated Crown land that has not been excluded by an annual gazette notice during an official hunting season (see list here).

Hunting of feral species such as deer/foxes by the general public requires approval by the National Parks and Wildlife Service on public land. This is so the control of feral species is undertaken in a coordinated and safe manner. For some reserves and unalienated Crown land the National Parks and Wildlife Service SA partners with recreational hunting groups to undertake management of feral species.

Currently grazing licences operate on Lake Hawdon North. and this is currently proving to have benefits to the management of habitat on this lake. Any future management options will consider the existing and future use of the land in discussion with the licensees.

Will this project consider water management issues at the lakes?

The primary aim of the South East Coastal Lakes project is to examine options for land tenure and management arrangements to conserve and maintain the coastal lakes into the future. While water management is not the focus of the project, we understand that water management is extremely important to supporting the ecosystems and habitats at each of the six lakes.

The South East Coastal Lakes project team is working closely with other areas within the Department for Environment and Water, the Limestone Coast Landscape Board and the Southern Eastern Water Conservation and Drainage Board to share stakeholder feedback on water management issues and to ensure consistency with complimentary water management and infrastructure projects (see below).

How will this project impact the Lake Hawdon North Feasibility Study?

The Healthy Coorong, Healthy Basin program’s Lake Hawdon North Investigations are examining the feasibility of constructing a regulator on Drain L to maintain and extend the period (not depth) of seasonal indundation at Lake Hawdon North, providing shorebird habitat for the entire period that migrating shorebirds are present in the South East.

The project is considered to be complementary to the South East Coastal Lakes project because, if feasible and approved, it will help restore and maintain important shorebird habitat at Lake Hawdon North. Any change in management as a result of the South East Coastal Lakes project will not impact the ability for the regulator infrastructure to be built.

For more information of the Lake Hawdon North Investigations, please see the Department for Environment and Water’s website, which includes FAQs on the project.

How will this project impact the Lake George Flow Feasibility Study?

The Lake George Flow Feasibility Study is investigating the feasibility of diverting surplus water flows from the Reedy Creek Mt Hope Drain into Lake George to help maintain water levels in the lake to ensure its resilience and capacity to provide aquatic habitat. The project focuses on the engineering feasibility assessment.

The project is considered to be complementary to the South East Coastal Lakes project as it is aimed at maintaining aquatic habitat at Lake George. Any change in management regime as a result of the South East Coastal Lakes project will not impact the ability for water flows to be diverted into Lake George.

For more information on the Lake George Flow Feasibility Study please see the Limestone Coast Landscape Board’s website.