Palm Beach Shoreline Project – everything you need to know.
Palm Beach is a thriving beach-side suburb located at the southern end of Queensland’s alluring Gold Coast.
Less than 20 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Surfers Paradise, and just 10 km north of the Gold Coast International airport at Coolangatta, the Palm Beach streets are lined with busy cafes, restaurants, local retail, and a stunning shoreline that’s as welcoming to local residents as it is to visitors from all over the world.
The world-famous Gold Coast coastline spans 57 km of beautiful white sands and deep blue sea. Unfortunately for the 13,000-strong population of Palm Beach and visitors to the area, the beach lining the postal district of 4221 has been identified as the most vulnerable section of the coast in danger of severe erosion that could ultimately destroy natural habitat, property and beachside infrastructure.
Ocean Beaches Strategy 2013–2023
The Ocean Beaches Strategy 2013 – 2023 has declared that urgent artificial intervention is necessary to repair and protect this vulnerable stretch of coastline. The Palm Beach Shoreline Project is a long-term, environmentally-focused strategy to restore and protect the stunning beachfront of Palm Beach long into the future.
The Palm Beach Shoreline Project will assume in two stages.
The first stage – beach nourishment – was completed in 2017.
Residents and those who regularly frequent the coast will have seen beach dredgers working up and down the coast for weeks on end pumping sand from the bottom of the ocean back into the shore.
Phase two of the Palm Beach Shoreline Project is scheduled to begin in May 2019. The second stage involves the construction of an artificial reef to build on the natural capacity of the coastline to defend itself against the severe threat of coastal erosion.
Construction of the artificial reef will take place 270 metres offshore. The intricately designed underwater structure will help manipulate the natural waves and currents to accumulate sand, and organically restore the pristine coastline.
Gold Coast weather events
While the regular ebb and flow of the tide contributes to natural beach erosion, with the sub-tropical climate of Queensland posing particular risk of severe storms, especially during the relentless summer months, up to 10 million cubic metres of sand can be lost per weather event, of which there’s no immediate or practical solution for replacement.
From as far back as February 1954 when the aptly named Great Gold coast Cyclone hit the coast to most recently, Ex-tropical Cyclone Debbie who bought with her 870 millimetres of rain within 30 hours in February 2017, wild weather is a part of Gold Coast culture.
Just ask 2013 Australia Day revellers who had to cancel their party as Ex-tropical Cyclone Oswald hit the coast with 80 km wind and violent rain. A storm that lasted just a few days, but the environmental impact of which is still felt today.
Despite an effective Coastal Management Plan in operation, with the Gold Coast a sub-tropical climate where severe storms pose an ongoing risk, irreparable damage to beaches and infrastructure is largely left to the mercy of Mother Nature.
Local coastal management
Coastal erosion is not a new problem for a location with a culture built on pristine beaches and a water-based lifestyle. In the 1960’s, the Government-led Delft Hydraulic Laboratory Study into coastal processes began to advise and implement practical methods to protect the exposed coastline.
The Tweed River Entrance Sand Bypass Project began in 2001 and is a long-term project designed to solve two convoluted problems.
With beach erosion at the forefront of coastal management, in an effort to displace sand bottlenecked at the entrance of the Tweed River, The Tweed River Sand Bypass (TRSB) currently pumps the estimated 500,000 cubic metres of sand back onto the coast to replace that lost naturally.
Unifying the governments of Queensland and New South Wales in the process, the long-term operation began almost 40 years ago and still adopts a cohesive approach to minimising the impact of beach erosion.
Of course, the Gold Coast isn’t the only city that has the problem of beach erosion.
Across the globe, local, state and national governments face the hindrance of beach erosion and the far-reaching consequences on both the community and the environment.
The county of Miami-dade built sea walls in the early 1970’s to protect the world-famous beach from erosion. The humanmade structures were constructed to prevent the full force of the water from reaching the shoreline.
While seawalls are effective, they’re not a stable solution as water can seep through cracks and even over the walls. Currently, the county is in the midst of a $1.5 million project to restore a kilometre of beach destroyed by Hurricane Irma. 32,000 tons of sand is expected to be allocated by the time the completion of the project.
Due to mangrove deforestation and infrastructure development, 3000 villages are impacted by coastal erosion and flooding in Java with entire communities already swallowed. The beach erosion experienced in Indonesia exposes local villages and the fisheries and tourist industries to grave risk.
In 2014, plans to repair beach erosion on the coastline of Java and Bali were based primarily on the Dutch methodology to coastal management including the creation of porous dams to capture sand to help the shoreline rise.
Council-led Beach nourishment projects began on the Gold Coast as early as 1974 with artificially-built structures designed to replicate and encourage the beach’s natural processes.
With the second stage of the Palm Beach Shoreline scheduled to begin in less than a year, the Gold Coast council are following the rest of the world to maintain the peak condition of its beaches to enhance natural habitat and preserve the infrastructure of one of the most appealing destinations in the world.