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Byron Shire
August 12, 2022

Lake Ainsworth

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The heavy rain on 28–30 March 2022 resulted in flooding of Lake Ainsworth at Lennox Head to about 2m above its normal level. Impacts elsewhere were much worse, but Lake Ainsworth still deserves our concern and attention.

Twelve weeks later the flooding is still about 1m above normal levels. Large areas of vegetation are still inundated – grass and shrubs are long gone, having nutrified the lake heavily with obvious ecological impacts. Large established trees, up to 80 years old, are now dying, with even more severe ecological impacts.

In an ideal world, authorities would have acted swiftly and decisively to reduce the water level and avoid mass vegetation dieback. Indeed, the practicalities of pumping out the lake were quickly agreed upon and equipment rented at a cost of $10,000 per week. But over $80,000 later the equipment remains idle. Why?

Firstly, there are a large number of agencies with their own internal processes to be satisfied before anything can happen – Ballina Council, NSW Lands, Jali Land Council, Marine Parks, NSW Water, NSW EPA, NSW Sport and Recreation etc. – a veritable bureaucrats’ picnic.

Thus, the apathy, slavery to process, and spinelessness that taxpayers so often suffer from the bureaucrats they pay is amplified tenfold. Tamara Smith’s office and the Premier’s Office have done precisely nothing to direct traffic – their role in such circumstances.

So, not one single bureaucrat responsible for managing this issue has their big-boy/ girl pants on and will actually make a decision.

Huge effort has been put into identifying convenient but pathetic/ wrong reasons why the lake should not be pumped out, including:

– The water must be purchased to be transferred from one catchment to another (FFS!)

– We can’t put fresh water into the sea (err, rain?)

– We can’t put polluted water into the sea (err, raw sewage from Lismore?)

– It’s a natural process, we can’t interfere with it (wrong, the lake’s entrance was closed artificially around 100 years ago).

To the conga line of bureaucrats responsible for this tragi-comic circus of inaction – the lake may suffer for years because of your negligence, or, one of you could make a decision tomorrow and save the lake. We’re watching you.

Charlie Hewitt, Lennox Head

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  1. Note that the prolonged wet has left the water table very high in many places. Water pumped from the lake will likely continue to be replenished from the water table for kilometres around. I expect it would take a lot of pumping to lower the level.

    In any case. I definitely agree that having hired the equipment without being able to use it is ridiculous.

  2. Thanks Charlie for your summary of this worrisome issue. Will some of the players names please get off their nether regions and act very soon before the damage gets worse. Lake Ainsworth is a highly valued natural feature of the Shire and should be preserved.


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