Coastal management & climate change

Gold Coast beaches provide significant economic, social and environmental benefits, making coastal management a serious and important issue for all of us.

Coastal processes

Our coastline is influenced by natural processes such as waves, tides and currents which are outside of our control. These processes impact longshore drift, the movement of sand from New South Wales up the coast to form our beaches and sand islands. About 500,000 cubic metres of sand moves north along our coastline each year. The complex interaction of these processes determines shoreline position and the health of our beaches. They are an important consideration in how we manage our coastline.

Climate change

Climate change is having a significant impact on coastlines around the world. On the Gold Coast we can expect an increase in storms as well as changes to our wave climate, which can cause erosion.

Our changing climate is also causing sea levels to rise, contributing to erosion and shoreline recession. Without proactive management, beach width across Gold Coast beaches will decrease, particularly during higher tides and storm surge events. We collect significant data to monitor our beaches and we manage our beaches for the benefit of our community. This is going to be increasingly challenging due to the impacts of climate change.

Coastal management

The Gold Coast is a world leader in coastal management. We manage the coastal zone in line with Commonwealth, State and Local Government laws and have complementary plans to deliver a coordinated approach to coastal management.

There are many ways we manage our beaches, including installing coastal protection structures, restoring and maintaining our dunes, and daily beach cleaning. We take a holistic approach to coastal management with consideration of a wide range of factors including community benefit, environmental impacts and surf amenity.

Our beaches are always changing due to natural coastal processes and weather patterns. Erosion can impact beachfront infrastructure and properties. We install and maintain coastal protection structures to ensure our coastal infrastructure is protected from coastal erosion and wave action.

Beach nourishment

Beach nourishment (also known as beach replenishment) is when sand is added to the beach from other locations. The sand acts as a buffer that protects the coast from erosion during weather events.

Replenishing the sand is necessary because:

  • our beaches are vulnerable to repeated erosion during storms, swells and weather events
  • building coastal protection structures, including training walls and groynes, has altered natural sand movement.

Read more about beach nourishment

Dune maintenance & restoration

Stable dunes are critical to the health of our beaches. They also form a key defence against erosion, protecting people, properties and infrastructure.

Dunes buffer our coastline from the impacts of storms and erosion. During storm events, sand from the beach and dune system is eroded to form a nearshore storm bar. Our dune systems absorb wave energy and act as a soft buffer from further erosion. During calmer conditions, the sand is slowly swept back up onto the beach.

Native vegetation stabilises coastal dunes. Plants trap and hold windblown sand on the beach, helping growth and recovery of dunes after storm events. Without this vegetation, sand on the beach is blown inland, reducing the amount of sand on the beach, and impacting properties and infrastructure.

Coastal dunes also provide valuable habitat for native wildlife such as birds, reptiles, and invertebrates. They form a critical corridor for movement of wildlife in our urban landscape.

What we are doing

We work to protect our dunes and promote healthy native vegetation by:

  • controlling weeds and introduced plants
  • planting native species
  • installing dune fencing and maintaining public accessways
  • running community dune planting and beach cleaning activities
  • beach cleaning and litter patrols.

What you can do

You can help protect our dunes by:

  • using designated beach accessways and keeping off the dune vegetation
  • disposing of rubbish and green organics in the bins provided
  • joining in local Our Beaches activities
  • reporting camping and vegetation vandalism as soon as possible

Join us to care for our coastal dunes at an Our Beaches dune planting workshop

Beach cleaning

Sparkling beaches and waterways are synonymous with our city. To ensure our beaches and foreshores retain their sparkle, we invest in a range of cleaning and management services.

Our specialised beach cleaning tractors sieve our beaches 365 days per year, with approximately 64 acres of sand sieved per night. There is approximately 400 acres of sand along our coastal strip and it takes our beach tractors about 10 days to sieve all the sand, depending on tides.

Following large storm events, beach crews clean up large debris such as logs and hazardous materials.

State of the Beaches Report

The City reports on the health of our beaches every year. The State of the Beaches Report (SBR) assesses the following key health measures at 29 beaches along our coastline:

  • dune amenity
  • water quality
  • beach amenity
  • erosion protection.

Individual beaches receive an 'On track', 'Monitor' or 'Action Required' rating for each measure. The report also provides insights on social and environmental factors. These factors include surf amenity, beach cleanliness, visitation and safety.

Throughout 2022-23, 22 of 29 beach compartments along the Gold Coast measured as 'On Track'. This represents a positive result for the City. It demonstrates that coastal management activities since the adoption of the Ocean Beaches Strategy in 2013 have improved the health of our beaches. A total of 6 beaches received a 'Monitor' status. Three are northern beaches (north of Narrowneck). This is a result of erosion protection and beach amenity issues. Narrowneck was the only beach which registered an 'Action Required' status. This was due to a steep beach profile throughout most of the year and beach scarping following swell events. The easterly facing orientation of our northern beaches means they are more exposed to severe swell events. Such events originate from east/south-east directions which can cause erosion.

In response to ongoing erosion issues on our northern beaches, we secured 27,000 cubic metres of sand from Gold Coast Waterways Authority. This occurred in financial year (FY) 2022-23. Additionally, we completed sand nourishment works across the same period. We deposited about 23,000 cubic metres of clean sand from coastal development excavations on our northern beaches.

The Surfers Paradise Sand Backpass Pipeline (SPSBP) is scheduled to begin operation in FY 2023-24. This will enable annual nourishment campaigns for beaches from Surfers Paradise to Main Beach. It will increase the resilience of our northern Gold Coast beaches.

The 3 remaining beach compartments which received a 'Monitor' status were Kirra beach, Palm Beach and North Burleigh. Erosion protection, dune amenity and clean water, respectively, caused this status result. Find further details within the beach report cards.

The SBR is a culmination of an extensive coastal monitoring program that ensures we're meeting community expectations for our beaches.

Download the State of the Beaches Report(PDF, 3MB)