Protecting Our Valuable Shorelines: Mapping The Palm Beach Reef

gold coast shoreline mapping

Australia’s iconic shorelines are a valuable environmental resource, and they’re enjoyed every year by millions of tourists and local residents alike. But they’re also an important component of our economy, accounting for a large percentage of our tourism industry’s earning capacity.

It’s vitally important for the well-being of our environment, our economy, and our future generations that we protect these idyllic gifts of nature from erosion and pollution.

One of the most picturesque coastlines in the country is located on the southern Gold Coast between Currumbin and Tallebudgera. Palm Beach is both a strikingly beautiful part of the Gold Coast’s natural landscape and an important part of its economy. But over the last few years, it’s become evident that the shoreline is increasingly susceptible to erosion.

As part of the Gold Coast’s Ocean Beaches Strategy to develop a sustainable solution to protecting the Palm Beach foreshore, MHS Mapping and Hydrographic Surveys has had the privilege of surveying the reef system. This valuable project demonstrates how hydrographic survey can support important community initiatives, helping to reduce the vulnerability of our shorelines and sustain the viability of our social and economic resources.


The Project


mhs mapping boatPalm Beach is an important part of the Gold Coast’s shoreline. It’s a popular tourist destination, a cherished recreational amenity for local residents, and a sanctuary of natural biodiversity. Palm Beach Reef extends approximately 1.2 kilometres seawards off Palm Beach and serves as a unique habitat comprised of coral, anemones, sponges and sea squirts that occur naturally in both the tropical waters of Queensland and the more temperate waters of the New South Wales coastline.

Over the last few years, concern has been growing about parts of the reef being inundated by sand. Though the processes are largely natural, the periodic dumping has resulted in the reef and the shoreline becoming susceptible to erosion, and it’s now evident that intervention is necessary if the environment is to be preserved into the future.

The City of Gold Coast is developing the Palm Beach Shoreline Project, a holistic and ongoing plan that aims to protect the beachfront and its social amenities from the impact of environmental damage with a sustainable and cost-effective solution to the problem.

For this plan to work, it was important to gather information about the features and extent of the Palm Beach Reef. MHS Mapping and Hydrographic Surveys was engaged in using our knowledge and technology to survey the reef. We also helped the Council to formulate the right environmental plan for monitoring and protecting the integrity of the Palm Beach ecosystem.


The Mapping


mapping gold coastGold Coast Council engaged MHS based on our 40 years of experience in hydrographic surveys for projects across Australia, South-East Asia, PNG, the Pacific and the Middle East. Our skill and technology allowed us to reveal the full extent and detail of the reef system, giving Council the information they needed to plan for the future of Palm Beach.

We conducted a multi beam echo sounder survey of the reef system. This produced a high-resolution, depth-contoured bathymetric map of the seabed, giving Council a clear image of the reef and surrounding seafloor.

This information is currently helping Council to formulate plans to determine a safety buffer for dredging vessels to prevent damage to the reef during the construction phase. The survey data will also facilitate future modelling studies to ensure that the placement of beach nourishment and a nearshore structure has no adverse impacts on the reef system and to continue monitoring and ecological studies after the completion of the project to ensure that Palm Beach is taken care of into the future.


The Plan for the Future


gold coast shoreline reef mapping projectMHS’s bathymetric survey has helped Gold Coast City Council to determine that the best long-term solution for Palm Beach is to create an artificial reef to stabilise the delivery of beach nourishment. Council, in partnership with the Queensland State Government, is currently in the process of investigating and collecting evidence to validate this solution, including assessments with sophisticated computer modelling.

Their objectives of protecting the coastal infrastructure around Palm Beach, and of ensuring the long-term benefits of the solution, will be peer reviewed by independent experts, and their plan will be presented to the public before work commences.

MHS is pleased to have been involved in protecting such a valuable and beloved natural resource as Palm Beach, and we look forward to working on many more conservation projects in the future. Contact us anytime for more information on this project, or to find out other ways MHS can share our skill and experience in hydrographic and bathymetric surveying, and we’ll be happy to help.