Access to the Coomera River and the broader waterways network will be enhanced by new speed limits being set by the Gold Coast Waterways Authority (GCWA) using data gathered during a 12-month speed limits trial, stakeholder engagement and strong community feedback.
The speed limits will be set at 30 knots for vessels less than 6.5 metres in length and 6 knots for vessels 6.5 metres and over for the Coomera River (South Branch) between Sanctuary Cove and its entrance into the Broadwater near Paradise Point.
Additionally, there will be a 6 knots speed limit for all vessels in the narrow channel between a small unnamed island and the entrance to Hope Harbour Marina (see map here.)
New speed signs for the new speed limits will be installed in the river from next Monday.
The aim of the trial was to ensure an acceptable level of marine safety whilst reducing travel times and improving operating efficiency for smaller vessels and personal watercraft (PWC) and addressing wash.
During the trial period, the speed limit was 40 knots for vessels less than 8 metres in length and 6 knots for vessels 8 metres in length and over. The trial speed limits were adjusted based on monitoring, the evidence gathered and community and stakeholder feedback.
GCWA CEO Hal Morris said the new speed limits reflected feedback from waterways users, waterside residents and businesses along the river, and strike a balance on differing community needs.
‘The Coomera River system is unique to the Gold Coast because of the mixed uses it attracts.
‘Unlike other rivers it has no cross-river bridges, it provides the main access point for boats travelling to the Gold Coast Marine Industry Precinct for servicing, it’s used as a recreation area for all types of water craft and it has many waterfront residential areas.
‘This presented us with some real challenges and complexities in making a decision on speed that addressed the differences of opinion expressed during the trial.
‘For example, waterways users told us the speed limits improved waterways access because travel times were reduced.
‘However, waterside residents raised concerns about damaging wash, environmental impacts and noise.
‘They’re all valid points so we’ve listened and taken that feedback into account, as well as information gathered during the trial, to reach a compromise on speed limits in this section of the river.’
Mr Morris said that whilst the 30 knots speed limit for smaller vessels is comparable to the 50 km/h speed limit that applies to built-up areas, speed limits aren’t the only factor governing behaviour.
‘People in control of vessels need to be aware of other rules like the Collision Regulations and take into account issues such as visibility, weather and traffic density when they’re on the water.’
Mr Morris said the trial was safely conducted with no marine incidents linked to the revised speed limits.
He said submissions from waterways users showed most people were in favour of the improved speed limits.
The trial had also shown that there was scope to reduce damaging wash from larger vessels by applying the 6 knots speed to vessels 6.5 metres long and over.
Mr Morris said community consultation during the trial had highlighted several related waterways management issues such as noise and environmental impacts.
Mr Morris said whilst these issues were outside the scope of the trial GCWA would continue to work with the relevant government agencies to consider how these issues may be addressed.
An implementation package has been developed that includes improved signage on the river, educating waterways users about their responsibilities and options for using technology to help improve speed limit compliance and monitor waterways traffic volumes.
If you’d like to read the full report, click here: Speed Limits Trial Coomera River (South Branch).