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Protections for World Surfing Reserves in Queensland

Queensland is home to some of the world’s most-loved surfing destinations. Surfing is an integral part of Queensland life in coast communities, a significant nature-based drawcard for tourism, a driver of business and an increasingly mainstream sport, now recognised at the Summer Olympic Games.

Surfing is also a popular outdoor activity that promotes physical and mental health, wellbeing and fitness.

Of just 11 World Surfing Reserves recognised globally, 2 are in Queensland.

The Queensland Government is committed to safeguarding these natural assets as part of the Activate! Queensland strategy to invest in places and spaces that inspire Queenslanders to lead an active lifestyle.

World Surfing Reserves

Save the Waves Coalition, a non-governmental organisation, launched the initiative to dedicate World Surfing Reserves in 2009. World Surfing Reserves are globally significant surfing sites, or those with an outstanding series of surf breaks.

World Surfing Reserves have unique environmental characteristics, are rich in surf culture and history, and are highly valued by local communities and those who visit these sites for their beauty and amenity, and sport and recreation purposes.

There are 3 World Surfing Reserves located in Australia, with 2 in Queensland:

  • Manly Beach in New South Wales
  • the southern beaches of the Gold Coast
  • the breaks around Noosa Headland.

The Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve was approved in 2015 and dedicated a year later, while the Noosa World Surfing Reserve was approved in 2017 and dedicated in 2020.

Protection and management of surfing reserves

Queensland’s World Surfing Reserves are currently managed by local councils and the Queensland Government.

Current regulatory and non-regulatory frameworks provide a range of protections for Queensland’s existing World Surfing Reserves, including for water quality, foreshore vegetation, marine plants and adjacent protected areas such as the Burleigh Heads National Park and Noosa National Park. These include:

Each World Surfing Reserve is required to establish a local stewardship committee and stewardship plan to support management of the reserve. Local stewardship committees for the Noosa and Gold Coast reserves have been established. Members include:

  • local, state and federal government representatives
  • local, state and national sport and recreation organisations and clubs, such as surfing and surf lifesaving clubs
  • local community groups
  • members of regional chambers of commerce.

Why are greater protections needed?

Surfing is a major drawcard for recreation and tourism and a focal point for community life across many Queensland coastal locations. Any decline in surfing quality in those areas would negatively affect the local surfing community, visitors to these sites, local surf businesses and the overall economy of surf coast communities.

Government action such as exploring legislative and non-legislative options would aim to address any gaps in protection and enhance existing protections.

Ministerial Surfing Roundtable

In early 2020, the Honourable Mick de Brenni MP, former Minister for Sport established a Ministerial Surfing Roundtable to help inform the Queensland Government on how to ensure that Queensland’s World Surfing Reserves can remain protected into the future.

The Ministerial Surfing Roundtable comprises representatives from relevant:

  • Queensland Government agencies
  • local governments
  • surfing organisations
  • First Nations’ peoples
  • World Surfing Reserve local stewardship committees.

Following 2 Surfing Roundtables in March and August 2020, members resolved to develop and finalise a discussion paper for community consultation.

Community consultation

We are working with local residents, businesses, the surfing community and all levels of government to develop options for the protection of Queensland’s current surfing reserves, and any future surfing reserves.

Between 2 October and 30 November 2020, the Queensland Government undertook community consultation through an online survey and submission process.

Stakeholders were invited to provide feedback on:

  • what values are important in Queensland’s World Surfing Reserves
  • key threats these areas may face
  • how we can ensure the waves and surrounding areas are protected into the future.

Consultation results revealed a desire to protect Queensland’s World Surfing Reserves from environmental damage, future development and increased population, as well as preserving the cultural values of both First Nations peoples and surfing heritage.

Read a snapshot of the consultation results (PDF, 173.1KB).

On 16 March 2021, a third Surfing Roundtable meeting was held to discuss the results of consultation and potential next steps.

Read the communique for this meeting (PDF, 77.2KB).

Next steps

A project plan has been developed by the department  to guide next steps, including undertaking a thorough scoping exercise, in consultation with key internal and external stakeholders, to explore legislative and non-legislative approaches to enhance protections  for World Surfing Reserves in Queensland, where needed. This work will be supported by an inter-departmental working group and input from members of the Surfing Roundtable where relevant.

More information

Last updated: 14 Jun 2021