Lake lobby has change of chair

WHEN Bob Parsons gazes out the window of his Lake Illawarra home at the waterway, he believes a decade-plus of lobbying has been worth the effort.

"I go, 'look at that'," he said.

"People are swimming in it; it's clean water every day.

"It used to smell and people wouldn't swim in it.

"Now you can't get a car park there of a weekend."

Last year, the state government announced it would replace the 25-year-old Lake Illawarra Authority with an estuary management committee.

Meanwhile, at the LIA's long-term critic, the Save Lake Illawarra Action Group, long-time chairman Mr Parsons has handed over the reins to Col Wilton.

Mr Parsons said frustration with the lake's condition led to SLIAG events like the "Save the Lake" rally in 2003, when a permanent lake entrance was requested.

Mr Parsons said that SLIAG had achieved what it set out to - apply pressure on the government to provide the LIA with funds for a permanent entrance.

"The lake was a disgrace," he said.

"The work has been ongoing, but rewarding.

"We took [the government] by surprise, because we took a different approach.

"The big dig [in 2002] was the start of it; then there was the lake rally, the lake debate, Pollution Man."

Mr Parsons will continue to advocate for the waterway as part of the group's committee.

"The lake itself will determine the action needed."

Mount Warrigal resident Mr Wilton, a 10-year SLIAG member, was pleased to take the role.

"In hindsight, we would have preferred the LIA be more open to the community," he said.

"If that had been the case, we would probably not have advocated for their dismissal.

"We have a strong support backing in the community.

"To have this as the best lake in Australia has been my goal for more than a decade."

Shellharbour City councillors have supported the proposed structure of a Lake Illawarra Management Committee, despite Wollongong City councillors demanding a firmer financial commitment from the state government before doing the same.

The new committee was to be jointly formed by the two councils, including two councillors from each local government area, a community representative from each LGA, plus staff from each council and state government agencies.

"The community does have a say, and their meetings are entirely open, which was missing from the LIA," Mr Wilton said.

"But I think the estuary committee has to have a balance of membership.

"There will be four councillors, and I believe it should have four community representatives."

However, Mr Parsons had concerns.

"I think with the LIA going, it will be a lot harder dealing with the councillors, as they're going to change from term to term.

"There's a lot of other things on the agenda, and it may not be a priority for all of them."

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