A Short review -Environmental and socio-economic aspect in Gippsland Lake System
Lakes Entrance is a coastal town in Eastern Victoria situated adjacent to the human-made channel, which connects the Gippsland Lakes System and the Bass Strait. Gippsland Lakes is the continent’s most extensive tidal waterway system, and it sustains the largest fishing port in Australia, Lakes Entrance. The region’s inland waterways are the most comprehensive system in the Southern Hemisphere (Agriculture Victoria 1965). The Gippsland Lake system constitutes a network of coastal lagoons that are isolated from the Bass Strait by dunes. The congregation of three significant lakes, Lake Wellington, Lake Victoria, and Lake King, make up the lakes system. These major lakes are sustained by a cluster of rivers, which are also linked to the sea employing a human-made entrance constructed in the late 19th century. The system is also made up of wetland bodies (Agriculture Victoria, 1965).
The hydrology of the wetland region is heavily influenced by the climate, the network of the river bodies, and their flow patterns and role of the human-made barriers and Entrance. Water is recharged in lakes by precipitation, and rivers and evaporation occur. It circulates in and out of the artificial Entrance based on the sea levels and lake levels. The hydrological regime is dependent on seasonal fluctuations. The fluvial discharge is maximum during the end of winter and onset of spring. The snowmelt enhances river flooding in the Highland region. The rate of evaporation is substantially lower during winter months, and lake levels are higher. Hence, the discharge at the human-made Entrance will also be more significant.
On the contrary, the lake levels during summer will be lower due to high evaporative rates, as explained in (Agriculture Victoria 1965). Limited amount of sea salt is transported into the lake waters by the action of winds, and it is described as cyclic salt, which occurs as a result of sea spray and which is pushed down by precipitation (Agriculture Victoria 1965).
Description of the environment of the Gippsland Lakes
The Gippsland Lakes are located in the state of Victoria in the south-eastern region, they composed a series of lagoons close to the coast and separated from the sea by dunes or barriers. These lakes form the largest navigable network of inland water in the country. These bodies of water contain internationally significant wetlands (RAMSAR site) and are the home of around 300 native wildlife species and 400 indigenous plant species. (Museums Victoria. 2019)
Referring to water, some species are symbolic of the Gippsland Lakes. Seagrass is present in several of the leading lakes like Lakes Victoria, King, and Tyers. The ecological value of seagrass to the ecosystem functioning has been acknowledged in studies that remark its importance Roob and Ball. (1997), like the primary production by seagrasses and associated algae affect direct grazing of living seagrass tissue with herbivores that feed on algae and the decomposition of organic matter by the bacteria that live in the sediment changing the biochemistry of the water, creating sheltered habitats.
Benthic Fauna in the Gippsland lakes
In a study of the marine and freshwater reserve of Australia, there were identified ninety species of benthic fauna, in which the most diversity was found in the seagrass beds. The fauna is very similar to other wetland ecosystems found in this area of Australia, except for its multiple amphipod fauna and depauperate bivalve fauna. The amount of seagrass and other benthic communities were higher than the ones seen in other estuaries but with fewer species. Temporal changes in the fauna could not be related clearly to seasonal changes in temperature or other environmental factors. When the data were pooled, it showed fewer groups of species and stations, indicating a faunal gradient across the lakes.
A distinct marine fauna was recognized on well-sorted sand at the lower end of the lakes, Reeve Channel, and a freshwater component at the opposite end. Physical structures such as McLennan’s Strait are responsible for the significant differences between the faunas of adjacent areas in the greater part of the system. It is suggested that increased salinity in the future may allow the establishment of euryhaline species in more placid regions of the lakes. Still, that deoxygenation of bottom water and high benthic mortalities may occur if a salt wedge is maintained. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research (1992).
One of the environmental issues in the lakes is the dominance of M.ericifolia. It is unlikely that the increase of salinity was the only factor responsible for the increasing dominance by M. ericifolia. But the conditions of being almost all the time inundated in Dowd Morass, the presence of microtopographic relief, played a major role in allowing Swamp Scrub to become the dominant vegetation type. Boon et al (2011).
Social Issues in the Gippsland Lakes region
Previous Planning Control Practices
Several planning control practices are being followed in this area for the issue of land inundation due to flooding. Masterplan & Development Framework- North Arm – Lakes Entrance in 2004, Lakes Entrance Urban Design Framework in 1999. North Arm Foreshore and Estuary Action Plan in 1996, Lakes Entrance Strategy Plan in 1987 are some of those strategic plans which were launched in this area. These planning proposals and land use activities have severely impacted the local community in lakes entrance in different ways. Apart from that, population growth and natural events such as floods and climate change also affect the local community. The population density of the Lakes Entrance area is 1.74 people per hectare when considering the study area of 2807 hectares. This is according to the census data of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Table 1 shows the total population of Lakes Entrance at the time of 2016 census.
Population of Lakes Entrance 2016
Population related issues
Population in an area significantly affects the quality of life of people, therefore, creating social issues as well. In order to meet the needs of the community in this area, social infrastructure should be developed. According to the ABS population statistics projection in the Lakes entrance area, population increase per annum is 1.1% for the year 2021 and 0.8% for the year 2025. These values help to develop plans to increase social infrastructure with the increasing population.
Population in different age categories produces varying needs for each group; such that in the towns in Lakes Entrance, the community is dominated by older adults. And there is a considerable population of Aboriginal people in this area (Australian Bureau of Statics, 2016). The Health and wellbeing of the people in the community are affected by many socio-economic factors such as income, employment, education, housing, etc. Social issues arise based on the above socio-economic factors.
Accommodation and Housing
Accommodation and housing are significant challenges facing the local problem. As a result of business zoning, a considerable proportion of land is being used for both private and tourist accommodation purposes. But to protect land for future urban residential expansion, more zoning of land has been stopped now. Educational facilities should be improved in a way that local schools can accommodate additional students.
Transportation and Unemployment
Transportation is another major regional issue with significant gaps that need to be filled. For example, one of the main transportation issues relates to a lack of northern entrance road into Lakes Entrance; further linkages among roads (linkages to Princess Highway) is required. Land use also has created issues for landowners regarding maintaining existing use rights. Unemployment is a major issue that locals face in this area and in order to solve this, economic development agencies suggest creating jobs especially in trade areas.
Fishing and Tourism
Tourism and Fishing are the two leading industry drivers in this region. Fishing conducted in this area supplies the most significant volume of fish to the Melbourne fish market (Lakes Entrance Fishermen’s Co-Operative Society Ltd). Maintaining the existing fishing industry can strengthen the employment aspect as well as the economy in the area.
Tourism brings an average of $170 000 000 into the regional economy, which is a considerable value. But tourism is now facing challenges related to climate change. Most of the tourists come to visit the beautiful beaches in this area. Climate change has resulted in sea level rise worldwide (Graham, S., Barnett, J., Fincher, R., Hurlimann, A. and Mortreux, C., 2014) and this has severely affected tourism in this area as well. So, it is clear that it has affected major retail and commercial businesses in the Lakes Entrance area.
Lakes Entrance has occupied high tourist attractions due to its geographical nature and rich biodiversity. Some land-use practices have hindered the open spaces and that has become a problem to some locals. So, in order to keep the natural environment, it is requested to increase public parkland areas. Drainage issues arise due to flooding and water retention systems should be maintained. Eastern creek Drainage system thus needs to be well maintained to prevent these issues. (Lakes Entrance Northern Growth Area Social Impact Assessment, 2012)
Aboriginal community and cultural issues
According to the census data from ABS, 3.8% of the Lakes Entrance community are Aboriginal. These people have their own rich cultural practices and rituals. And they have lived in this area for more than 10,000 years. There are important historical sites along the east coast to Bainsdale, Lakes Entrance and Orbost. These talented crafts people now face problems regarding unemployment. A considerable number of Aboriginal people suffer from unemployment, creating stress and leading to violence issues within families. Also, they are facing problems related to the lack of education and medical care.
Their culture can be described as both a set of rules or behaviors and standards that monitor how they look at the world. This includes their spiritual beliefs, customs, and tradition (Lake Entrance urban design framework, 2007). Even though many development plans are being raised, there is no proper cultural heritage overlay that has been yet introduced in order to protect these cultural aspects of Aboriginal people.