A target to clean up Lake Tuggeranong
This being the latter part of summer, families and children should have had loads of fun at the lakeside facilities around Lake Tuggeranong. Not so – the waters remain off limits due to nasty green blobs floating about and poisonous algae in the water.
In June 2022 Lake Tuggeranong was reported as having the lowest-health rating to date. Greenslabor politicians were able to point to their announcements, the dollars spent and the actions taken. All this delivered the lowest health rating. Something has to change.
In July 2022, the Greenslabor Government made a big splash with the announcement of the establishment of the ACT Office of Water. This office would coordinate efforts to deal with water issues. Two ACT Greens minister, Shane Rattenbury and Rebecca Vassarotti were excited and proud of this achievement – a new office.
Here we are in early 2023 with Lake Tuggeranong smelly, untouchable and not safe for young ones to play and paddle about in the water.
A search online reveals a very simple web page for the new office that may be located somewhere within the labyrinth of the ACT planning directorate. This directorate has an organisational chart dated early 2022 – so it is unknown how the Office of Water sits within the directorate’s massively complex hierarchical arrangements.
The suspicion is that it will suffer the same fate as other city functions such as climate change, heritage, the environment and sustainable urban development. They are relegated to low priority within the world of the authority for minimal regulated developments.
Earlier in January Nicole Lawder, Canberra Liberals, made the point at a gathering on one of the Lake Tuggeranong beaches, that the ACT Government has been talking about fixing up lake for almost a decade.
She acknowledged that money have been spent, that announcements have been made and that Greenslabor broadcast that it was to establish the ACT Office of Water. She was standing near massive amounts of green stuff on the lake and a sign nearby that said stay out of the water.
This gathering by the lake was a good example of a local member at work. Nicole had taken the positive step of producing a publication to guide what could happen next. That document – A New Approach to Improving Water Quality in Canberra Lakes and Waterways – is available online
Missing in action is the Labor local member, Mick Gentleman, Greenslabor Minister for Planning. He should be active in getting something tangible done to have the lake open again for people to enjoy. Not so apparently.
As Nicole Lawder admits, finding solutions for Lake Tuggeranong is complex. Everyone knows that part of the problem is what comes off residential lands, such as leaves, fertilisers (especially when piled on gardens before downpours) and whatever people put down the storm water drains.
Here’s a question. The residents of Tuggeranong near the lake (that includes several kilometres back) must be doing the same as residents near other waterways such as Lake Burley Griffin and Lake Ginninderra. Yet while these lakes have had the occasional similar issues, there has not been the sustained presence of algae as has been in Lake Tuggeranong for the last decade. What is that about?
With all the bluster from the ACT Greenslabor ministers, what does not gets mentioned when they make announcements is the setting of targets to be met and dates for when they will be completed.
Here’s a target that should be easy enough for any of the ministers to understand. To demonstrate they are serious, the target (performance indicator) has to be that when the warmer season rolls around later this year (November 2023), children and families will be swimming in Lake Tuggeranong.
There has been enough planning, enough research and definitely enough announcements. Anything less than that target, kids swimming, will be a fail.
Local members in Tuggeranong need to be challenged over this in the lead up to the 2024 ACT elections.
Both Shane Rattenbury, ACT Minister for Water, and Rebecca Vassarotti, ACT Minister for the Environment, need to ensure this target is met or else regard themselves as being failures.
This article is a version of the piece originally published online with City News
Paul Costigan is a commentator on cultural and urban matters