Tuggerah Lakes estuary

The Tuggerah Lakes estuary is a unique environment rich in biodiversity. Over the years, the natural function and condition of the estuary has been influenced by many different human activities around the foreshores and throughout the catchment.

Land clearing and land use change, loss of important natural filters (streambank, wetland and saltmarsh vegetation), changed water flows, more pollutants, nutrients and sediment reaching the lakes, and extensive foreshore modifications have all contributed to change – fewer native seagrass beds, more frequent algal blooms, increased amounts of smelly ‘ooze’ around the foreshores and an overall loss of habitat and amenity value for native plants, wildlife and the community.

Development pressure in the Tuggerah Lakes catchment grew rapidly from the 1960s onward as the area shifted from a holiday destination to a place of permanent residency, supporting ever-expanding residential, commercial and industrial centres.

Management of the wider catchment has improved with greater controls on farming, sewerage management and development. Now the estuary is considered to be “healthier” than it was during the 1980s and 90s. 

During the 2000s the former Wyong Shire Council worked closely with the NSW Government, expert scientists, fishermen and local community interest groups on a three-stage process to ensure a sustainable future for the Tuggerah Lakes estuary. By applying the principles of the NSW Government’s Estuary Management Manual, the Tuggerah Lakes Processes Study, The Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Study and the Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Plan (TLEMP) were developed. 

Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Plan

The Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Plan (TLEMP) is the current certified Coastal Zone Management Plan which aims to rehabilitate the Tuggerah Lakes estuary and its catchment to support ongoing health and vitality and protect against future impacts. 

Since 2008, the Australian Government has provided $30.95 million in grant funding to assist with implementation of various aspects of the plan: 

2008-2013: $20 million Australian Government Caring for our Country grant

2004-17: $3.25 million Australian Government National Landcare Programmes grant

2017-20: $3 million Australian Government Improving Your Local Parks and Environment grant

2020-23: $4.7 million Australian Government Environment Restoration Fund grant. 

Council has produced a video which outlines the science behind the estuary including estuary processes, water quality, human impacts, funding and future management of Tuggerah Lakes – take a look

What has been done?

The Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Plan included four action plans relating to water quality, ecology, socio-economic values and knowledge and management. These action plans included 100 individual actions, of which 86% have been completed or are ongoing. 
By working with our project partners and the local community, the following key achievements have been completed (as of June 2020): 

  • 40km rural stream rehabilitation
  • 13km urban stream rehabilitation
  • 2.5ha saltmarsh reconstruction
  • 29ha saltmarsh rehabilitation
  • 374ha wetland conservation and restoration
  • 277 gross pollutant traps
  • 37 constructed wetlands
  • 29km of shared pathway
  • 32 boat ramps & jetties
  • 4 foreshore beaches
  • 33 regional and local playspaces
  • Ongoing financial support for Environmental Groups (formerly Landcare)
  • Award winning community education program
  • Long term water quality improvement at multiple locations
  • Extensive research & innovation to improve future management

View the Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Plan: Summary of Implementation Report 2008-20 for more information

Map of Projects

We are always working to improve the estuary and catchment in high priority locations. You may not always see where we are working, so instead why not explore the many on-ground works completed during the implementation of the TLEMP. The map contains locations and information on projects completed by Council and its partners through various grant programs as well as Council funded projects. 

View the Tuggerah Lake Estuary Management project map

Tracking progress

Central Coast Council monitors the ecological health of our lakes, estuaries, rivers, creeks and lagoons to evaluate condition, measure change through time and target investment and on-ground works to improve ecosystem health. A healthy waterway is one that supports natural processes, is resilient to change, can recover from human impacts, and is relatively stable and sustainable through time. 

Sampling is undertaken for all estuaries on the Central Coast, including Tuggerah Lakes. The annual results are published in our Central Coast Waterways Report Card. By reporting the monitoring results to the community each year, Council aims to raise awareness about the state of our waterways, and the pressures that affect ecological health

What's next?

Management of estuaries and coastal environments is complicated and our plans need to evolve over time. There are many values and risks to be considered when preparing a management plan, and this is done in consultation with technical experts and the local community. 

All coastal areas in NSW are managed in accordance with the Marine Estate Management Act, the NSW Coastal Management Act and through the development and implementation of Coastal Zone Management Plans. 

Recent changes to the legislation has meant that the current plans are being transitioned across to new Coastal Management Programs.

Over the next 2-3 years, Council will work with the NSW Government, the Tuggerah Lakes Expert Panel, technical experts and the local community to develop a new Coastal Management Program for Tuggerah Lakes. This will replace the existing Estuary Management Plan and will provide the framework to manage the estuary into the future. 

Estuary Management Plan

The Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Plan (TLEMP) was adopted by the former Wyong Shire Council in 2006. The TLEMP was developed over a nine-year period and provides strategic direction for the management of the Tuggerah Lakes estuary and its catchment.

The TLEMP was developed to identify priorities, costs and likely timeframes for taking further action. It incorporates the social, economic and environmental values of the Tuggerah Lakes and was subject to community consultation before it was finalised and implementation began. The EMP provides guidance on the types of actions that should be undertaken to protect the estuary, the order in which they should be completed and the estimated cost.

The TLEMP is considered the platform by which Council will manage the estuary into the future. Its primary objective is to provide direction for the management of Tuggerah Lakes and its catchment in order to ensure the sustainability of its ecological systems. Council continues to refer to the Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Plan in developing our annual business plans and budgets.

The overarching aims of the TLEMP are to ensure that:

  • the quality and quantity of water meet the needs of the community and lakes and rivers
  • the plants along the banks of rivers, lakes and in wetlands are protected because these are essential to a healthy ecosystem
  • biodiversity and ecological integrity of the lakes ecosystem are maintained or enhanced
  • human activities can take place while protecting cultural heritage and enhancing soil, water and ecosystem health
  • the social and economic needs of the community are met while protecting the environment of the coastal zone
  • we continue to improve our understanding of how the estuary works and incorporate this knowledge into management.

Snapshot of the Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Plan – Part 1

Snapshot of the Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management – Part 2

Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Plan Part 1

Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Plan Part 2

Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Plan Part 3

Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Study 2001-2004

The Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Study builds on the knowledge of the Tuggerah Lakes detailed in the Estuary Processes Study and details key issues and management options for improving the health of the Tuggerah Lakes estuary and its catchment. The study looks at options for areas such as stormwater management, saltmarsh rehabilitation, water quality, the channel, dredging and many others. The study contains input from a Community Reference Panel (including boating, fishing, environment, Aboriginal peoples, Dunecare and other representatives), as well as technical experts and local business organisations. Further community and stakeholder consultation was held in late 2004 and their comments incorporated before the completion of the study.

Estuary Management Study

Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Study Summary

Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Study full document inside cover

Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Study Part 1

Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Study Part 2

Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Study Part 3

Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Study Part 4

Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Study Part 5

Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Processes Study 1998-2000

Prior to developing management actions for the Tuggerah Lakes estuary, an Estuary Process Study was developed to outline the current environmental condition of the system and establish a ‘baseline’ from which to work. This involved looking at all the existing scientific studies and the completion of further studies covering many of the ecological processes of the lakes. Research looked at characteristics such as water quality, saltmarsh and seagrass habitats, sediments and their movement and stormwater. Written by Council staff and State Government agencies, the Process Study was hailed “the best in the state” by scientists who reviewed it.

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Dredging at The Entrance channel

Our dredging program at The Entrance channel is carried out to maintain tidal exchange between the ocean and the estuary.

Reports on Tuggerah Lakes and The Entrance Channel

A Coastal Management Program is currently being prepared for Tuggerah Lakes, with assistance being provided by the NSW Government appointed expert panel. As part of this process, a comprehensive review of past reports...
Last updated : Tue 20 Oct 2020