Here’s a trivia question for you.
What’s valued at over $11 million and helps keep Gold Coast navigation channels safer and accessible for boaties?
If your answer was the Aids to Navigation (AtoN) dotted around the waterways network, you are right!
On the Gold Coast there are more than 2,000 beacons, buoys and marine signs managed and maintained by us, more than any other maritime region in Queensland.
As a waterways city with an extensive network of channels people use to travel from A to B like a road network, we need a good system of signs and markers to help everyone navigate their way around safely.
When you consider our waterways contribute $700 million directly and indirectly to our local economy every year and support vital tourism, marine and recreation businesses, the money spent on our Aids to Navigation program is a sound investment.
GCWA has set aside a total of $200,000 over the next four years under our Gold Coast Waterways Management Program to keep our navaids ship-shape.
Whilst the asset’s overall value may seem surprising, each smaller beacon like the one pictured (of which there are hundreds) costs about $500 each. The major pile beacons found in areas like the Main Channel can cost up to $250,000 each to manufacture and establish.
GCWA procures the beacons and buoys from an Australian manufacturer based in Victoria whilst the rest of the materials used are sourced locally where possible.
GCWA’s Waterways team undertakes most of the construction, repairs and maintenance but it does use local contractors for some of the bigger repair jobs such as on the major pile beacons. This is because major welding and platform repairs can’t be done in-house.
Damage to our navaids can be caused by a range of factors including bird-droppings, wild weather or, most frustratingly, vessel collisions. From time-to-time, birds choose to use the markers as roosting spots. When that happens, the Team calls in specialists to ensure proper relocation of the wildlife.
GCWA’s Waterways team clocks up thousands of nautical miles each year checking and maintaining the navaids throughout the city’s 170 kilometres of navigable channels which they know like the backs of their hands.
Some of the more interesting spots where you’ll find Aids to Navigation are the leading lights on the top of Bayview Tower at Runaway Bay, the starboard entrance beacon at the northern wall of the Gold Coast Seaway which is sometimes accessed by helicopter and the southern sector of Moreton Bay Marine Park.
Typically, GCWA’s rolling maintenance schedule aims to ensure each sign is checked every two years and all navigation beacons are checked every 12 months. Emergency repairs are done in response to reports of damage.