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Palm Beach Shoreline Project

Click to enlargeAerial photo of the artificial reef construction

Aerial photo of the artificial reef

Palm Beach Artificial Reef

Historically, Palm Beach is one of the Gold Coast’s most vulnerable beaches to the threat of coastal erosion. As part of the implementation of the City’s Ocean Beaches Strategy 2013–2023, we constructed the Palm Beach Artificial Reef to enhance coastal protection at Palm Beach.

Phase 1 was completed in September 2017 and saw the successful nourishment of Palm Beach with more than 470,000 cubic metres of clean sand. Construction of the artificial reef was Phase 2 of the Palm Beach Shoreline Project and was completed in 2019.

Project update - September 2019

Construction of the artificial reef is now complete.

The temporary exclusion zone is no longer in place. While the primary purpose of the reef is coastal protection, surfing outcomes were considered in the reef’s design. Please observe safety signage prior to accessing the reef.

Artificial reef design

Click to enlarge imagesLocation and shape of the Palm Beach Artificial Reef

Location and shape of the artificial

Located approximately 270 metres offshore from Nineteenth Avenue between the beach and the existing natural reef, the Palm Beach Artificial Reef is approximately 160 metres long and 80 metres wide.

The artificial reef is constructed of large rock boulders and is 1.5 metres below the average water level at its highest point. Significant investigation and design effort has gone into designing the artificial reef, including coastal data analysis, computer modelling and wave tank testing.

Section view of the artificial reef showing rock sizes

Section view of the artificial reef
showing rock sizes

The reef will work by influencing the surrounding waves and currents to help prolong the benefit provided by the sand delivered through phase one, and promote a long term increase in sand along vulnerable sections of Palm Beach.

Aerial view showing the area benefited by the Palm Beach artificial reef

The area benefited by the artificial

The increase in sand will generally be located just offshore within the surf zone, not always distinctly visible to beach users, but in a position to act as a protective buffer from erosion into the future.

While the primary purpose of the artificial reef is coastal protection, surfing outcomes have been considered during the design of the reef, in line with the City’s Surf Management Plan. Under certain swell conditions there is predicted to be waves breaking on the reef suitable for intermediate and advanced surfers. For surfer safety information, see below.


The artificial reef was constructed using 60,000 tonnes of rock quarried in South East Queensland. The rocks, each weighing up to eight tonnes, were loaded onto barges at the Port of Brisbane before being transported to the site offshore from Palm Beach. Specialist marine equipment then accurately placed the rock to build the artificial reef.

Map showing temporary exclusion zone around the offshore construction site

Temporary exclusion zone around
the offshore construction site

Construction of the $18.2 million artificial reef is scheduled between April and October 2019, when the ocean conditions are generally calmer. Marine construction works of this nature are sensitive to wave conditions and can only proceed when safe. Construction timeframes are therefore subject to change.

All construction works at Palm Beach will be marine-based. To ensure the safety of all beach and ocean users, a temporary exclusion zone will be established offshore around the artificial reef construction site. This will prohibit all watercraft, swimmers and boardriders from entering the construction site.

Surfer and beach user safety

Click to enlargePalm Beach Artificial Reef warning sign

Palm Beach Artificial Reef warning sign

The Palm Beach Artificial Reef is a submerged rock structure offshore of Nineteenth Avenue. Under certain swell conditions there is predicted to be waves breaking on the reef suitable for intermediate and advanced surfers. All beach users are advised to familiarise themselves with beach and surf safety information prior to accessing City Beaches.

Beach and surf users please note:

  • Additional permanent signage has been installed along beach access ways detailing hazards and warnings related to the artificial reef. Please familiarise yourself with the information on these signs before entering the water.
  • Observe the surf and wave conditions before surfing.
  • Water can be shallow above the artificial reef; please exercise caution when in close proximity.
  • Conditions may be dangerous and can change unexpectedly.
  • There may be strong currents and hazardous waves on and around the artificial reef at times.
  • The submerged uneven rock surface may present an entanglement risk.
  • Similar safety considerations exist when swimming or surfing near any submerged rocks.
  • The area may not be patrolled by lifeguard services.

More information

For more information about the Palm Beach Artificial Reef view the fact sheet and frequently asked questions documents below.

Project background and Phase 1

The challenge

Beach erosion during a storm

Palm Beach is particularly vulnerable to erosion and storm surges.

During large and prolonged storm events, sand is removed from the beach and the inner surf bar and deposited further out to sea on the outer storm bars.

Sand is also predominantly transported northwards along the beach by longshore drift. Sand does not always return to the beach by natural processes before the next storm event. Consequently the beach can be changed significantly, impacting on the amenity of the beach and adjacent properties.

We were reminded of the vulnerability of Palm Beach through the effects of ex-tropical Cyclone Winston in February 2016, yet we know the erosion experienced then was minor compared to what occurred during other moderate events such as ex-Tropical Cyclone Oswald in 2013. View the video below.

The impact of such weather events has been repeated many times during the Gold Coast’s short history, including in 2009 when three successive large swell events battered the south-east coast of Queensland. Along Palm Beach, sections of the seawall were exposed and the viewing deck was lost at Palm Beach Avenue.

Another example occurred in June 1967, when three severe storms battered the coastlines of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales, generating major flooding and extensive erosion of the city’s beaches. Six lives were lost.

View past videos of Palm Beach erosion from the links below.


Developing the project solution

Coastal engineering projects of this nature are complex and challenging. The City has worked with a team of world class experts in coastal science and engineering to develop the best possible solution for Palm Beach.

A variety of data sources such as wave buoys deployed offshore at Palm Beach, beach and hydrographic surveys, and coastal imaging have been used, along with extensive scaled physical modelling and numerical (computer) modelling to develop and refine the final solution.

The City has engaged Royal Haskoning DHV as the principal design consultant to develop and refine the design solution throughout the Design Reference Report stage of the project, and to provide construction certification services throughout construction of the artificial reef. Royal Haskoning DHV are local and internationally based consultants specialising in the planning and design of coastal structures, beach nourishment and the development of coastal management schemes.

Throughout the Design Reference Report stage, Royal Haskoning DHV have worked with a number of professional teams, including: Danish Hydraulic Institute (DHI), numerical modelling; the Water Research Laboratory, physical modelling, Sydney; the Queensland Government Hydraulics Laboratory (QGHL), physical modelling, as well as other industry experts.

The City has also worked with some of the world’s leading coastal engineering technical specialists who contribute to the project as our peer review panel.

For more information on the independent expert panel please see the team details below.

Feasibility study

Development of the design solution commenced with the Palm Beach Shoreline Project feasibility study (completed in January 2013).

The study reviewed research data, coastal management reports and the Palm Beach environment to assess the feasibility of various coastal management schemes. It identified a total of 18 management options, with seven schemes shortlisted for further assessment.

The feasibility study concluded that the best value and most sustainable outcome for the management of the Palm Beach shoreline is beach nourishment stabilised through the construction of an artificial reef.

Concept design

The concept design for the Palm Beach Shoreline Project was completed in March 2014. This included a detailed assessment of three management options; two developed from the feasibility study and one alternative solution:

  • beach replenishment only
  • beach replenishment stabilised through construction of a nearshore structure
  • beach replenishment stabilised through construction of two artificial headlands (alternative option).

The detailed assessment included a review of the performance of previously constructed examples and sophisticated computer modelling studies. Based on the assessment outcome and recommendations from technical experts, beach nourishment stabilised by an artificial reef was recommended as the concept design solution for Palm Beach.

The adoption of this coastal protection solution was endorsed by Council of the City of Gold Coast in March 2014 (refer ex Minute G14.0325.004).

Design reference report and detailed design

This stage of the project involved a series of major investigations that refined both the artificial reef and beach nourishment designs, and resulted in final design documentation ready for construction. The investigations adopted a ‘multiple lines of evidence’ approach, involving additional data capture and analysis, sophisticated numerical (computer) modelling of waves and sand movement, and two programs of scaled physical modelling.

This approach provides confidence in the design solution and its performance outcomes by allowing cross-checking and validation between the various investigations.

View the video from the link below.

The team

City of Gold Coast is working with some of the world's leading coastal engineering technical specialists who contribute to the project as our peer review panel.

Technical advisors

The Griffith Centre for Coastal Management (GCCM) is a research centre that contributes to aspects of sustainable management of urban environments in coastal areas and, more specifically, the Gold Coast.

GCCM has been in partnership with the City since 2001 and has produced several research papers for Palm Beach over the years.

To learn more about GCCM, find the link to Griffith University's website below.

Professor Rodger Tomlinson

Professor Rodger Tomlinson

City of Gold Coast Professor of Coastal Management
Foundation Director, Griffith Centre for Coastal Management

Dr Darrell Strauss

Dr Darrell Strauss

BSc, PhD
Research Manager at the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management

Subject matter experts

Subject matter experts have been appointed by The City to undertake peer reviews and independent assessments of technical information at major milestones throughout the development of the project, to assist in delivering the best outcome for Palm Beach's shoreline. They are:

Mr John Pronk

Mr Johan Pronk

Principal at Pro Dredging and Marine Consultants

Associate Professor Peter Nielsen

Professor Peter Nielsen

MEng, PhD
Associate Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Queensland

Emeritus Professor Colin J. Apelt

Emeritus Professor Colin J. Apelt

BEng (Hons), DPhil (Oxon), FIEAust, CPEng (retd)
Emeritus Professor and Honorary Research Consultant in the Department of Civil Engineering, The University of Queensland

Mr Dan Garnett - Principal Environmental Officer, Department of Environment and Science (DES)

Mr Dan Garnett

Principal Environmental Officer, Department of Environment and Science (DES)

Mr Peter Cummings

Dr Peter Cummings

BEng (Hons), PhD , RPEQ, NPER
Chairman of the National Committee for Coastal and Ocean Engineering, Engineers Australia
Chief Technical Engineer at Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR)

Surfing representative

Mr Mark Traucnieks

Mr Mark Traucnieks

Palm Beach Local Surfing Representative

Phase 1: Beach nourishment (completed 2017)

The beach nourishment works for Palm Beach (Phase 1) were completed on 19 September 2017 as part of the Gold Coast Beach Nourishment Project. Palm Beach received approximately 470,000 cubic metres of sand between First and Nineteenth Avenues as part of this major project.

This phase of the project involved dredging clean sand from deep water offshore sand reserves and depositing this sand around the wave breaking zone by bottom dumping and rainbowing. The sand was strategically placed in a way that would replicate natural sand bar formations at Palm Beach. While the sand was not placed directly on the upper beach, over time the sand will move onshore with the help of waves and currents, which will help protect Palm Beach during future erosion events.

The nourishment phase (Phase 1) of the Palm Beach Shoreline Project has also been effective in enhancing sand banks to produce temporarily improved surfing outcomes. Initial feedback from stakeholders has been positive with favourable surfing conditions during recent swell events, especially around Nineteenth Avenue.

Nourishment works were undertaken in accordance with the City’s existing development approvals, which were previously used between 2004 and 2006 to deliver beach nourishment at south Palm Beach.

Check the Beach nourishment page for further details.

Red colour indicates significant increase to sand levels at Palm Beach as at 16 September 2017. Source: Royal Haskoning, 2017.

Stakeholder engagement

A comprehensive stakeholder engagement plan continues to be delivered as part of this project.

A number of stakeholder meetings have taken place with key stakeholders including a selection of community group leaders who have represented their members. The meetings have provided an opportunity for stakeholders to ask questions and for the project team to respond to, and address any issues while informing stakeholders about the need for the project and method of delivery.

Kevin Schofield
President Pacific Surf Life Saving Club, Palm Beach

"I believe that the entire project will be good for Palm Beach including the reef. Having lived here for 35 years it will be reassuring that the beach will finally hold up in most conditions.

I think the stakeholder meeting was very beneficial - good to know what's going on in detail - and then convey to our clubs membership."

Dan Stewart
Hon. Sec Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club, Qld

"As long as your modelling reflects the reality of Nature's forces, the plan to produce surfable banks along the threatened foreshore for sand replenishment is great. I do believe also that foreshore residents who have a rock barrier which does not extend to the depth and other specifications now required be put on notice that they will need to upgrade their barriers and conform to accessibility requirements in extreme weather events, weaknesses in the structures create problems for all.

The night was informative and casual. I intend to write a small article in our next newsletter so members are aware of the project; its purpose and the extent of proposed at sea operations."

Related information

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