Estuaries, lagoons and wetlands

Estuaries, lagoons and wetlands are dynamic, living entities and an important part of the natural environment. These systems are integral to landscape processes such as nutrient cycling, water detention, slow release of flood water and trapping of sediments. 

Within the Central Coast it is estimated there are about 870 hectares of mangroves, 190 hectares of saltmarsh and 1,780 hectares of seagrass. The Central Coast contains and is surrounded by a number of differing estuaries and coastal lagoons, from Lake Macquarie in the north to the Hawkesbury River in the south. Each system contains important ecosystems and is unique in terms of its ecology, biodiversity and management requirements.

Our wetlands have high intrinsic value for regional and national biodiversity, providing habitat for a wide range wildlife including waterbirds, fish, frogs and invertebrates, and water-loving plants such as sedges, rushes and various tree species. They also support many listed threatened species and ecological communities.

Since the release of the New South Wales Government's Estuary Management Manual in 1992, Council has worked with government bodies, industry and the community to appropriately manage activities in and around estuaries — guiding conservation and rehabilitation efforts, supporting land managers who have wetlands or creeks on their property, and educating the community.

Over the past decade, Council has developed and adopted Estuary Management Plans (EMPs) and Coastal Zone Management Plans (CZMPs) for all the geographical catchments within the local government area. In 2018, the NSW State Government established a new framework for the management of coastal environments which requires Councils to transition their existing EMPs and CZMPs across to the new Coastal Management Programmes (CMP) format. Council will be reviewing and working through its existing plans over the coming years.

The current management plans for each of the Central Coast’s estuaries or coastal lagoons can be viewed by clicking on the links below:

Monitoring the health of our waterways

Council has established comprehensive ecological health monitoring programs for all our waterways. These programs help us understand past and current condition, identify where we need to focus our management actions and determine long-term trends in water quality and ecological health.

Sampling is undertaken by scientists throughout the year at a number of representative sites. Data is collected on site condition, water chemistry, nutrient concentrations and a range of biological indicators which tell us about the health and resilience of each area. The program aligns with the NSW Estuary Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Protocols and allows us to compare our results to other estuaries in NSW.  

The 2020-21 Waterways Report Card for the Central Coast Local Government Area has been released and includes Southern Lake Macquarie, Tuggerah Lakes, Brisbane Water, the Lower Hawkesbury River and the coastal lagoons – providing a clear picture of our entire waterways network. The 2020-21 report tells us:

  • Of the 36 sites sampled, 25% are excellent (A), 50% are good (B), 25% are fair (C) and none are poor (D) or very poor (E)
  • Water quality and ecological health in the three southern bays of Lake Macquarie remained excellent (A) for the fourth consecutive year.
  • Tuggerah Lakes scored four ‘A’ (excellent) rankings for the first time ever, with Canton Beach and Lake Haven jumping from fair (C) to excellent (A)
  • Water quality throughout Brisbane Water was graded good (B) with the exception of Kincumber Broadwater which received a fair grade (C)
  • Water quality in Avoca Lagoon showed a vast improvement with the overall grade increasing from very poor (F) to good (B).
  • Cockrone, Terrigal and Wamberal Lagooons all remained consistent with last year, ranging from A (Excellent) at Cockrone Lagooon to C (fair) at Terrigal and Wamberal Lagoons.
  • All sites on the Hawkesbury River remained consistent with last year, ranging from A (excellent) at Patonga Creek to C (fair) at Mooney Mooney Creek

Council uses this information to track change, help guide our management decisions and identify areas where more detailed catchment audits are required.

Read the full report for all details.

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Creek maintenance

Council currently maintains 24 high priority creeks in accordance with site specific Maintenance Management Plans.

Lake Macquarie

Lake Macquarie is a natural estuarine lake with an area of some 110 square kilometres and a catchment of about 600 square kilometres.

Tuggerah Lakes estuary

The function and condition of the Tuggerah Lakes estuary has been influenced by human activity around the foreshores and throughout the catchment.

Coastal lagoons

The Central Coast’s four coastal lagoon systems (Wamberal, Terrigal, Avoca and Cockrone) are a significant geographic feature of the region.

Hawkesbury River

The Lower Hawkesbury Estuary Management Plan manages estuary from Wisemans Ferry to Broken Bay, excluding Pittwater and Brisbane Water.

Brisbane Water

Brisbane Water is a youthful, wave-dominated barrier estuary with high scenic value and areas of pristine vegetation.
Last updated : Mon 29 Nov 2021