Our future has a past

The Tuggerah Lakes Estuary has been shaped by a rich and vibrant history. It began with the early Aboriginal tribes followed by the arrival of European settlers who triggered a wave in logging, fishing, dairying, tourism and urban development. Today, it is a bustling urban hub home to 140,000 people and a favourite destination for thousands of annual holidaymakers.

200 years of growth makes a mark

Almost 200 years of European settlement, industry and development in the Tuggerah Lakes catchment has had significant and long-term impacts on the local environment. The top four impacts are: Sediments, nutrients, erosion and pollution.

Forests covered the original catchment of the Wyong River, Ourimbah Creek and Wallarah Creek. This land was steadily cleared for agriculture and timber during the 1900s which caused severe erosion. Soil and attached nutrients were washed into the streams and rivers and eventually made its way into the lakes.

Plant fertilisers and organic matter (animal manure or plant material) can contribute very high amounts of nutrients to the lakes which can be bad for the health of these types of estuaries. Fertiliser used on farms in New South Wales increased sharply from the 1950s. Rain can cause fertiliser to dissolve and flow into the lakes. While nutrient levels have decreased from their peak in the 1960s and 1970s, there are still some industries in the catchment that continue to use fertiliser.

 timber  carflood EntBoardingHouses   TheE1935tif  TheE1998
 early logging 1820's  flooding from lakes 1900  boating on lakes 1920's  the entrance 1920's  entrance early 1980's

See more pictures on the timeline of change.

Impacts from the past and today

Find out more how these impacts are affecting the lakes today.




In the early 1900s, there was no treated sewerage system. Each house used a pit toilet and cast the dirty water from washing and bathing into the drains which eventually flowed into the lakes. This only had a small impact when there were just a few houses in the area but as the population swelled something had to be done. Town water was connected in the late 1950s which brought with it flushing toilets and septic systems. As the volume of grey water increased so did the amount of pollution entering the lakes. A treated sewerage system was finally introduced between 1960 and 1990 which pumped sewerage to treatment plants and away from the lakes.

Stormwater runoff

Stormwater treatment device at Kanwal

Photo: Stormwater treatment device in Kanwal to prevent rubbish and sediment entering the waterways

Before the paved roads and buildings, most of the catchment’s rainfall would have soaked into the ground. However urban development has significantly increased the amount of runoff, particularly during heavy rainfall, which flows into the lakes. Stormwater is usually directed down concrete drains and watercourses carrying with it soil from building sites, leaves, fertilisers from gardens, litter from footpaths, oils from roadways and pollutants from factories. This runoff is one of the main causes of high nutrient levels in the lakes which can lead to excessive growth of algae and aquatic plants. Over the past decade, Wyong Shire Council has installed sediment traps, trash racks and filter strips on stormwater drains to try and reduce the problem. Education campaigns have also been run to raise public awareness.