Lake site coup

Mount Gambier City Council and SA Water have been granted joint custodianship of the Blue Lake, paving the way for a new plan to activate one of the region’s centrepiece attractions.

It follows the expiry of a 21-year licence between SA Water and Mount Gambier City Council for the Blue Lake land parcel on December 31, 2020. But it also comes amid a shift within SA Water on how it treats bodies of water, like the Blue Lake, with reservoirs across the state starting to be utilised for community benefit, and for drinking water.

“The next steps will include liaison with SA Water to draft an agreement to guide the use, activities and protocols associated with the Blue Lake,” Mount Gambier City Council chief executive Sarah Philpott said. Mount Gambier Mayor Lynette Martin is looking forward to the development of the area.

“Council recognises the Blue Lake is the city’s leading tourist attraction, so we intend to develop a shared vision and model to activate the Blue Lake with cultural and tourism opportunities,” she said.

SA Water’s customer growth senior manager Matt Minagall said his organisation would work alongside the council “to enable a contemporary visitor experience that champions and adds value to the local area, capitalising on its natural beauty, cultural heritage and important operational role in water supply”.

The news comes after council was advised late last month that joint custodianship for the Blue Lake had been approved, with SA Water and council named as custodians for recreation, tourism and water supply purposes. However, it was revealed at council’s most recent elected members meeting that council had been given approval in May, but had not been notified of this until more recently.

Following this revelation were queries from Councillors Max Bruins, Paul Jenner, Ben Hood and Steven Perryman on council’s vision for the Blue Lake and its currently vacant kiosk. The councillors also asked for a timeline, with the queries falling to council’s city growth general manager Tim Coote.

But Mr Coote would not be drawn on this, as certain conditions laid out in law need to be met first. These are namely that council first liaise with SA Water to draft an agreement to guide each organisations use, activities and stakeholder communication protocols associated with the Blue Lake land parcel; that council prepare a draft Community Land Management Plan for the Blue Lake land parcel (noting the Blue Lake is part of the State Heritage Crater Lakes precinct); and that council consider the most appropriate mechanisms for coordination and community engagement.

Each of these will form part of a report that will be presented back to councillors, after councillors voted in favour of council undertaking this process at its most recent elected members meeting. However, Mr Coote did reveal that significant effort would be put into activating the Blue Lake.

“From my side all the envisaging is work to be done once this first part (consultation, forming the draft plan, and considering our community engagement) is done,” he said. “I think from a strategic level, this presents a significant opportunity, probably one of the most significant opportunities for Mount Gambier.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m looking at the best way to maximise the asset for the city in terms of specific visions for particular activities on the site.”

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