Surfers Paradise Sand Backpass System

  • Project typeOcean, beaches & waterways
  • Project scheduleOngoing
The Spit aerial view

The Surfers Paradise Sand Backpass System is a sand transport system running from The Spit to Surfers Paradise. It delivers sand via an underground pipeline to nourish the Gold Coast’s northern beaches.

These beaches are the most vulnerable to erosion on the Gold Coast. Powerful storms and king tides can strip the beaches of sand and threaten coastal infrastructure.

The backpass enables regular beach nourishment (sand replacement) campaigns, which usually takes place each winter. The system can also transport sand where needed after a severe weather event.

The system will help protect the hardstands (paved areas) at Surfers Paradise as well as protect and enhance beach amenity at Surfers Paradise, Main Beach and The Spit.

How the backpass system works

Due to the prevailing wind and wave conditions, sand naturally migrates north along the Gold Coast and builds up at the Gold Coast Seaway.

The existing Gold Coast Waterways Authority Sand Bypass System (GCWA) at the Spit transports sand north across the Seaway to South Stradbroke Island. This safely bypasses the Seaway and copies the natural drift of sand. 

Our Sand Backpass System is integrated with GCWA’s system. By partnering with GCWA, we benefit from using this existing infrastructure, making the backpass more cost-effective than other options. 

The backpass system allows approximately 120,000m3 of sand to be redirected each year to nourish beaches to the south.

During sand pumping, sand is mixed with seawater and transported with the power of 4 booster pumps located along the pipeline. This sand is pumped to one of 3 outlets along the system, at Surfers Paradise, Narrowneck and Main Beach. The active outlet is connected to a temporary pipeline on the beach, allowing sand to be directed to areas which need the most replenishment.

What to expect during backpass operations

The first backpass campaign is scheduled to start in mid-2024.

  • Booster pumps, commissioning, testing and installing temporary pipework will occur in May and early June.
  • Some equipment will be temporarily stored in a site compound in the Phillip Park car park at The Spit and near the beach entrance at Higman Street, Surfers Paradise. This site is approved by the State Government for our beach protection and enhancement activities under the City Plan.
  • City and City-approved contractor vehicles will access the beach to carry out essential activities.
  • Temporary traffic control measures may be in place during operations. Some footpaths and beach access ways may be closed for short periods but alternative pedestrian access to the beach will be provided. 
  • Sand pumping will start mid-June. This will occur during the day in June, then transition to night-time in July.
  • Some site works will occur during the day. Please expect some vehicle movements, noise and visual impacts on the beach.
  • Public access to beach areas in the immediate vicinity of operational works will be temporarily restricted during this time.
  • There will be some temporary lighting installed on the beach for public safety.

Ongoing monitoring and observation

We will continue our long-running coastal monitoring program before, during and after backpass operations. Beach surveys, photography and wave buoys are all used to monitor and record changes to beach and surf conditions. The Surfers Paradise Sand Backpass System is a long-term investment in maintaining our beaches. It supports all outcomes of our Ocean Beaches Strategy 2013–2023.

Watch a video overview of the project

Frequently asked questions

What is the schedule of works?

  • April–May 2024: install booster pumps, commissioning, testing and install temporary pipework
  • June–August 2024: start sand pumping during the day-time before transitioning to night-time pumping
  • Early September 2024 stop pumping, contractor demobilisation and removal of infrastructure 

What is beach nourishment?

Beach nourishment (also known as beach replenishment) adds sand to a beach from other locations. The sand acts as a buffer to protect the coast from erosion during weather events.

Beach nourishment has been a vital part of management of our beaches for the past 40 years. A recent example is the Gold Coast Beach Nourishment Project. In 2017, more than 3 million cubic metres of sand was delivered off Palm Beach and between Miami and Main Beach.

The benefit of the Surfers Paradise Sand Backpass System is that it allows annual renourishment of our beaches to sustain the benefits of long-term beach nourishment.

What other options were considered when planning the backpass?

We considered several options as possible solutions to renourishment including periodic dredging from the Broadwater combined with trucking sand, a sand backpass system and offshore dredging.

These options were carefully assessed against criteria including upfront and ongoing costs, health and safety issues, inconvenience to the community and ensuring a measurable volume of sand each year.

A sand backpass system was recommended as the best option because it provides a cost-effective method for targeting renourishment at our most vulnerable locations.

It also makes use of the existing Gold Coast Waterways Authority sand pumping infrastructure at The Spit, making the backpass system more cost-effective than other options.

Where are the outlets located?

There are fixed outlets at Main Beach, Narrowneck and Surfers Paradise.

Locations

  • Outlet 1: Main Beach Parade, Main Beach, in Hollindale Park opposite John Kemp Street
  • Outlet 2: Main Beach Parade, Narrowneck, just north of the car park opposite 3478 Main Beach Parade
  • Outlet 3: The Esplanade, Surfers Paradise, opposite View Avenue

Where are the booster pumps located? Are they noisy?

Booster pumps will be temporarily installed at the start of each annual campaign.

Locations

  • Seaworld Drive, next to a car park at Muriel Henchman Park
  • Seaworld Drive, in the Federation Walk Coastal Reserve opposite Seaworld entrance
  • Northern end of the Southport SLSC car park, Main Beach
  • The hardstand area at the Higman Street sand deposition site, Surfers Paradise

Booster pumps produce audible vibrations when operating, but they are within the maximum noise thresholds under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (Section 440T). Where possible, the booster pumps have been placed away from residents and businesses. Any booster pump near residential areas will be covered in acoustic dampening material to minimise noise.

Will this project impact the surf quality on South Stradbroke Island?

Protecting surfing and beach amenity has been a key factor in design, planning and operation of the backpass system in line with our Surf Management Plan. Leading coastal experts have concluded the operation of the backpass system will not negatively impact the renowned surf break on South Stradbroke Island.