Stab Magazine | The Gold Coast's Getting (Another) Artificial Reef

The Gold Coast’s Getting (Another) Artificial Reef

But producing waves isn’t it’s primary function. 

news // Aug 30, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

The Gold Coast houses some of the best damn waves Australia, if not the world, has to offer, and now the local government’s implementing an artificial reef off Palm Beach – a region renowned for it’s lack of sand, making it highly susceptible to erosion during cyclones and East Coast lows as swell hammers the coast. 

This artificial reef ain’t cheap though. It’ll cost around $18.2 million bones and will be the second artificial reef alongside the Narrowneck reef a few kilometres north. 

This might seem like an exorbitant amount of cash to splash around for waves, but in actuality, this artificial reef’s primary objective has little to do with surfers; it’s simply Phase Two of the city’s plan to protect Palm Beach from ongoing erosion as part of their Palm Beach Shoreline Project – a project being overseen by Royal Haskoning DHV to plan, design, and implement the multi-phased erosion mitigation techniques. 

Phase One was a “beach nourishment” step completed in September of last year and was a necessary preparatory step before the reef could be constructed. It involved the dredging of sand from offshore sources and distributing it in differing concentrations along Palm Beach – particularly between the First and Nineteenth avenues.

While the primary reason for this restoration wasn’t surfing, this first Phase did result in improved banks, and therefore marginally better waves. Although it should be noted that the Gold Coast City’s website refers to these sandbank improvements as “temporary”. 

As time goes on and swells continue, this sand will be spread up the coastline and be dispersed more sparingly along Palm Beach.

Now that Phase One has been completed, the construction of an artificial reef will start – scheduled between May and October of next year. The reef will sit 270 metres offshore of 19th avenue, but inshore of the pre-existing natural reef which resides further out to sea.

“The artificial reef is designed to control wave energy before it reaches the shore, resulting in a build-up of sand that will act as a buffer during storm season and swell events.” The city’s Mayor, Tom Tate, said about the project.

According to plans, the reef will gradually increase sand deposits surrounding the reef, leading to increased protection from incoming swells, therefore minimising beach erosion caused by larger storm systems. A lack of erosion however isn’t the only positive outcome of the planned construction.

Since the development will impact the waves, it must adhere to the city’s Surf Management Plan which was developed in 2015 to protect the region’s plentiful supply of pumping surf. The location, design, and orientation of the reef have all been developed to maximise the potential for better waves at Palmy. 

“The reef will be constructed with large boulders up to eight tonne. The boulders will be placed to form the protective reef using specialised barges and marine construction equipment.” Mayor Tate continued. 

Coastal data from Palm Beach in conjunction with smaller scale testing appears promising for both preservation and surfing prospects, but we’ll have to wait until later next year to see whether these hypothetical impacts translate onto the larger and real world scale. 

In the mean time you can always go and surf one of the other dozens of near-perfect spots littered along their coastline. It ain’t just Snapper that cooks up there. 


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