Great Lakes and its catchments (including Myall Lakes Ramsar wetland)


On 21 September 2015, responsibility for water policy and resources was transferred to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources - Administrative Arrangement Order made on 21 September 2015.

This website will be updated to reflect these changes.

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About the catchment

The Great Lakes catchment flows into the Myall, Wallis and Smith Lakes on the NSW lower North Coast.

The catchment occupies approx 2110 km2 in the north-eastern part of the Karuah River drainage basin and the two main sub-systems are the Coolongolook and Myall Rivers.

Forster / Tuncurry is the largest urban area and the hotspot is predominantly within the Great Lakes Council local government area, although the Wallis catchment extends significantly into the Greater Taree City local government area (30%) and also into Gloucester Shire (5%).

Values to be protected

The Great Lakes system provides habitat for a diverse number of native flora and fauna species, including large numbers of waterbirds, and is an important drought refuge. It also supports significant oyster, fishing, tourism and recreation industries.

It is estimated the area produces one third of Australia's oyster harvest.

Ramsar site

Water quality issues

Algal blooms have been identified from time to time in the estuarine lakes, and there has been a health related water quality issue affecting the oyster industry. Water quality is affected by continued urban expansion, with urban diffuse, rural point and diffuse pollution.

Increased nutrients and sediments from catchment runoff disturbs the ecology of the lakes system and contribute to excessive growth of algae. Sediments smother or shade-out seagrasses, macrophytes (aquatic plants) and other benthic organisms.

Key water quality improvement projects

Key stakeholders

  • Great Lakes Council
  • Greater Taree City Council
  • Hunter Central Rivers Catchment Management Authority
  • MidCoast Water
  • NSW Office of Environment and Heritage
  • NSW Office of Water
  • Department of Primary Industries
  • National Parks