The estuaries of Darkum Creek, Woolgoolga Lake, Willis Creek and Hearnes Lake (the “Woolgoolga Region estuaries”) are located around 15 minutes north of the Coffs Harbour City Centre. Situated within the bounds of the Solitary Island Marine Park, and adjacent to the Coffs Coast Regional Park, the estuaries comprise a series of Intermittently Closed and Open Coastal Lakes and Lagoons (ICOLLs).

Estuary health has long been identified as a key issue for these estuaries, and water quality has been affected over recent decades by the significant increase in blueberry horticulture across the catchment. Agricultural runoff (including nutrients, herbicides, pesticides, sediment and organic matter) and a lack of regulation of agricultural practices and water extraction across the upper catchment has resulted in detrimental impacts to water quality, sedimentation and altered hydrological regimes across the ICOLLs.


To develop a Coastal Management Program for the Woolgoolga Region estuaries, Coffs Harbour, NSW.


Coffs Harbour


Coffs Harbour City Council

Adding to these pressures, the impacts of catchment urbanisation is also likely to increase over the coming decades, and diffuse urban runoff across the study area contains a range of pollutants including sediment, nutrients, heavy metals, hydrocarbons, chemical compounds and gross pollutants.

In order to address these issues, Coffs Harbour City Council has engaged Water Technology and Molino Stewart to prepare a Coastal Management Program (CMP) for the four estuaries. The CMP will take a holistic “systems” approach and address coastal hazards and estuary health from a whole-of-catchment perspective. The project is an opportunity to develop a strategic, long-term approach to estuary and catchment management, and maintain the health of the estuaries for current and future generations.

These issues across the estuaries are highly complex, and involve engagement with multiple tiers of government, community groups, indigenous interest groups, as well as stakeholders from the agriculture industry.  The CMP is therefore an opportunity to improve coordination between public authorities and link with local, regional and state planning initiatives. Water Technology has employed a robust stakeholder and community engagement program during this process in order to ensure that there is alignment across key stakeholders.

Stage 1 of the project was completed on time, on budget, and to a high level of client satisfaction. The project is currently progressing through the remaining stages.

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