Living on our waterways

The Gold Coast boasts a spectacular network of waterways. There are 5 main rivers, the magnificent Broadwater, and many creeks, lakes and canals. All property owners, and City of Gold Coast, have specific roles and responsibilities when it comes to managing these systems.

Waterfront living is an attractive and highly desirable lifestyle option on the Gold Coast, but it comes with a number of legal responsibilities and common sense. To protect our waterways, waterfront property owners are legally obliged to maintain their private structures in good condition and must not pollute the waterways or foreshore.

The City is responsible for maintaining canals. Private waterfront property owners also have responsibilities to help keep our waterways pristine. Find useful information about living on our waterways below.


We provide the following services to ensure our lakes and canals are well-maintained. Our responsibilities include:

  • managing water quality
  • periodic dredging in canals and removing excess silt/sand from the channel bed where feasible
  • foreshore nourishment and replenishing eroded sandy beaches
  • installing and maintaining rock protection to prevent foreshore erosion
  • cleaning, and removing floating debris and waste
  • removing inappropriate vegetation from foreshores
  • monitoring algae and removing weeds in lakes.

Waterfront property owners

To comply with relevant State legislation and the City’s local laws, waterfront property owners must:

  • maintain any private structures on their property, including boat ramps, pontoons, jetties and decks
  • ensure revetment walls are maintained in a good, safe, and structurally sound condition
  • manage stormwater run-off from their private properties.

Not adhering to these responsibilities could result in the City taking enforcement actions. If you need to know more about your responsibilities and how to meet these obligations, you'll find helpful information and advice in our booklet:

Download Managing our waterways booklet(PDF, 420KB)

Dredging & maintenance

Under the Coastal Protection and Management Act, the City is legally responsible for maintaining and keeping lakes and canals clean, as well as the access channels for each canal.

We undertake the following actions to keep our waterways clean and well maintained:

  • periodic dredging to maintain the canals to their original condition
  • install rock protection or sand to maintain canal banks to their original condition
  • replenish sand on eroded beaches
  • maintain City-owned revetment walls fronting City-owned land and parks.

We maintain canals within the limitations of available resources and access constraints. Dredging is undertaken to maintain the typical design profile, having due consideration to the local environment and conditions.

It is the responsibility of vessel owners to ensure that any vessel they choose to moor within a canal is of a suitable size and draft, given the constraints of the canal. Council will not undertake navigational dredging to facilitate the requirements of individuals or unsuitable vessels.

How you can help

Owners and residents can help keep our lakes and waterways clean in the following ways:

  • Do not place green waste onto a canal foreshore or into a waterway. This is illegal and can attract serious penalties. Grass clippings, palm fronds and leaves may decompose, potentially emitting bad odours.
  • Do not plant any grasses, shrubs, or trees within the canal systems.
  • Keep water canal frontages clean and free from any obstacles.
  • Ensure boats, boat ramps, pontoons, jetties and decks do not restrict the City’s dredging or maintenance works.
  • Remove dilapidated and non-functional boat ramps, pontoons, jetties as these structures are not safe and they impeded canal maintenance activities.
  • Do not undertake any dredging or install any structures without first obtaining the relevant approvals.
  • Dumping or placement of material other than sand, for example rock, rubble or waste, is not permitted within canals. This includes the construction of groynes or other structures designed to capture or retain sand.
  • Do not remove any freshwater plants from lakes as these species help provide habitat for our wildlife.

For information about dredging and waterway maintenance contact us on 07 5667 5974.

Stormwater management

The City is responsible for providing our stormwater and road drainage system, and minimising local area flooding.

Property owners are responsible for managing run-off from their premises which may come from roofs, swimming pools, grassed and paved areas, boat ramps, and other structures.

Concentrated stormwater runoff from properties can cause severe erosion to the foreshore. The City Plan’s Land Development Guidelines (Schedule 6.12) require canal front lots to discharge stormwater water runoff to the street. Properties owners need approval from the City to discharge stormwater runoff to the canal. Where approval is given, the City would typically require:

  • stormwater outlets to be buried a minimum of 300mm below the sandy beach surface, and
  • discharge below low tide level.

How to manage your stormwater runoff

  • Do not discharge into canals and lakes. Stormwater should be directed to the roadside drainage.
  • Seek approval from the City if you need to discharge stormwater into canals and lakes.
  • Provide proper drainage from boat ramps, steps and decks.
  • Runoff over a revetment wall should fall evenly and should not concentrate in one area.
  • Provide drainage to minimise water discharge onto beaches, e.g. install stormwater pipes in the beach to below low tide.
  • Place rubble drains inside revetment walls to reduce surface run-off.
  • If you have a pontoon, be particularly vigilant with stormwater management as beach slumping below pontoons can cause structural failure.
  • Maintain revetment wall weep holes.

For general enquiries on managing stormwater runoff from private properties, please contact us on 07 5667 5978.

For more information about how you can help prevent water pollution and reduce stormwater runoff that causes erosion, visit our Healthy water environments page.

Report erosion and stormwater runoff

If the issue is urgent and presents a risk to public safety, please contact us on 07 5667 5974 as soon as possible.

To report private properties that are affected by stormwater run-off from a neighbouring property visit Report a problem – Development Compliance.

For non-urgent problems with stormwater drainage on public land, including blocked drains and gutters or missing grates visit Report a problem – Roads, footpaths & bus shelters.

Revetment walls

A waterfront revetment wall is a permanent structure designed to protect land from erosion and subsidence adjacent to waterways and the ocean.

Owners of waterfront land are responsible for the maintenance of revetment walls on their property. A body corporate is responsible for revetment walls that benefit community title developments. For more information visit Waterfront revetment walls.

To report an issue with a revetment wall supporting public property such as a park, visit Report a problem – City parks, beaches & waterways.

Our Waterways booklet has many useful tips and information about managing and maintaining your revetment wall.

Private jetties, pontoons & ramps

Property owners with private jetties, pontoons and/or ramps are responsible for maintaining these assets to ensure our waterways are not polluted or subjected to erosion as a result of poor design or management.

You will need approval if you are proposing development work on tidal or non-tidal land. Find out more, including how to apply:

Please contact city development unit for advice regarding development applications for any new structure and maintenance, on 07 5582 8866.

For more information and recommendations about the following, download the Private structures on waterways booklet:

  • building a boat ramp
  • common issues with boat ramps, jetties, and pontoons
  • maintaining your boat ramp, pontoon or jetty.

Private structures on waterways booklet(PDF, 758KB)

Leasing City land for a pontoon/jetty

You must apply for a lease if you want an exclusive use area for a pontoon or jetty on inundated non-tidal public (City) land adjacent to your property. Note that coastal development works are restricted on some lakes.

For further information on lease applications, call City Property on 07 5581 6192.

Recreational activities

Council manages a number of public boat ramps, jetties, pontoons. These facilities provide multipurpose access to accommodate a range of vessels and uses including:

  • recreational vessels
  • tour boat operators
  • passive crafts such as kayaks, canoes and stand up paddleboards.

To find out about public boat ramp locations, visit Boating, fishing & jet skiing.

If you notice a public boat ramp, pontoon or jetty that needs maintenance, please report the issue at Report a problem – City parks, beaches & waterways.

Safety and signs

Waterway recreation comes with some risks. It's important to understand current regulations and behave responsibly and safely. We do not recommend swimming in the city's canal systems due to the presence of dangerous aquatic organisms like sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, catfish, and stonefish. Algae and other microorganisms can also be found in lakes, canals, and waterways.

We strongly recommend NO swimming, bathing or water sports with significant water contact in canals, lakes, and waterways.

  • Avoid primary contact recreation in waterways, such as swimming, snorkelling, and diving.
  • Only swim at patrolled beaches, dedicated swimming enclosures, and public swimming pools.
  • Look out for signs of pollution before any recreational activity in waterways, such as:
    • discoloured or strong-smelling water
    • floating litter
    • scum
    • debris.
  • Look for posted warning signs and follow the advice on them.

Follow the safety tips on our Waterways safety page.

Boating, fishing and jet skiing

Responsible boating involves following speed limits and navigational rules, using eco-friendly cleaning products, and properly disposing of any waste generated on boats or during water activities. Find out more about public facilities for recreational purposes such as boat ramps, jetties and pontoons and tips for responsible boating practices on our boating, fishing and jet skiing page.

Mooring vessels

Waterfront property owners are responsible for anchoring and storing vessels in a safe manner. Vessels include watercraft such as canoes, kayaks, small motorised and non-motorised boats. Find out more about storing vessels on public foreshores.

Fishing permits, rules and regulations

The Queensland government regulates recreational fishing in our waterways. Find information on fishing permits, rules and regulations on their recreational fishing web pages.

Speed limits on waterways

Make sure you adhere to the State government's rules for boat and personal watercraft speed limits.

Restricted areas

If you're taking your personal watercraft out for a spin, take note of the Queensland government's restricted areas before you go. These are areas where recreational water activities such as water skiing and operating a personal watercraft may endanger marine safety.

For more information about recreational activities download our fact sheet:

Recreation on waterways(PDF, 583KB)

Who to contact for waterway issues

Contact Environmental Health Compliance on 07 5667 5991 for enquiries regarding:

  • pollution in waterways
  • water quality
  • dead animals in waterways
  • contaminants in stormwater
  • illegal dumping in waterways
  • noise – power boats in waterways (including from jet skis), use of regulated devices on moored boats (power tools, etc), amplifier devices (loudspeakers, etc). This does not include noise from parties / loud water users. Report users to Queensland Police Service.
  • weed spraying and harvesting
  • illegally stored/moored vessels on foreshore.

Contact City Maintenance on 07 5667 5974 for general maintenance enquiries and reports regarding:

  • dredging and maintenance
  • locks (and how to access)
  • maintenance issue for stormwater drains (including blocked drains)
  • beach erosion or landslip issues
  • canal maintenance and cleaning
  • floating rubbish and debris
  • vegetation growing in and around waterways
  • issues with revetment walls, jetties or structures on public land/property
  • general cleaning of waterways
  • algae and weed removal
  • stormwater drainage issues
  • public facilities (including – stairs, accessways, access, access ramps, railings, seats, lighting, fencing, safety matters, showers, etc).
  • foreshore protection and erosion reporting / landslip on river banks
  • aquatic plants in lakes (not algae)
  • swimming enclosures.

Contact the Planning Enquiries Centre on 07 5582 8708 for information regarding:

  • Lease applications (for private structures to be built)
  • Development applications for any new structure
  • Dredging applications/approvals

Contact City Development on 07 5667 5978 for general advice relating to:

  • managing stormwater runoff from private properties to ensure they are not running into waterways
  • general advice on stormwater drainage.

For all other issues, review Gold Coast Waterways Authority's “Who's who in the Blue” to determine the relevant agency to contact.