One of Gold Coast Waterways Authority’s primary functions is to set up and maintain aids to navigation such as beacons, lights and structures. Recently, we have received enquiries from the community about the possibility of re-establishing a derelict beacon that we removed from the end of the Currumbin Creek northern training wall. The derelict beacon had previously been known as an osprey nesting site.
This derelict beacon had been out of service for more than 7 years. The steel top had wasted to such a degree that it had become an unacceptable safety risk, both to our own people and also to the public. We take safety seriously. If the top had fallen and hit someone there could have been a serious injury. We removed the structure to appropriately manage the safety risk.
Of course, at all times, GCWA gives consideration to the protection of environmental values. Before taking action, we consulted with the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, as well as Maritime Safety Queensland. We monitored the site from mid-July 2016 to see whether any osprey were present before we undertook any work to remove the beacon.
The derelict beacon had never been identified by Department of Environment and Heritage Protection as one of the 14 historic artificial osprey nesting platforms on the Gold Coast.
Were there any ospreys in the nesting site?
No. We had anecdotal reports that the nest had been inactive for at least 2 years. Our own field observations confirmed this and also that the nest had deteriorated significantly.
Where else can ospreys nest?
We have spoken with the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and the University of Queensland to find out more about ospreys and their habits. The nesting season is usually from April through to September. Ospreys can find a nesting site in high trees or the existing artificial osprey nesting platform which is about 590 metres away from the training wall. Ospreys are known to nest on cliff faces, headlands, rocky foreshores and even man-made structures like beacons.
Will GCWA construct another nesting platform on the training wall?
No. The Currumbin Creek training wall is an asset of the City of Gold Coast. The City is best placed to respond to enquiries about structures on their assets.
However, we sought advice about the Eastern Osprey from a leading ornithologist and recognised expert in the field of birds, shorebirds, migratory shorebirds and conservation. Given the facts and circumstances of this case, the replacement of the structure for a nesting site is not required.
Constructing an artificial nesting platform
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection has published an “Osprey nest platform manual” for anyone interested in constructing an artificial nesting platform.
Is a replacement aid to navigation required?
No. The general safety obligation for the safe operation of a vessel always rests with the vessel’s master. Quite often, vessels rely upon landmarks to assist their navigation. The derelict beacon had not been used for more than 7 years for its designed purpose as an aid to navigation. We’ve made enquiries with Maritime Safety Queensland about the need to re-establish an aid to navigation for vessels approaching Currumbin Bar. Given that existing prominent landmarks can be used by vessel masters for their approach to the bar, we believe that a project to re-establish an aid to navigation is unwarranted.
Photo: Pandion cristatus (osprey) feeding © Queensland Government, 2000