Building a better understanding of movements on the city’s waterways network will help the Gold Coast Waterways Authority (GCWA) improve planning to accommodate a growing population and rising boat ownership.

CEO Hal Morris said an initial study undertaken by GCWA was the first serious attempt to understand past and present patterns of use on the Gold Coast’s waterways and pinpoint areas where access could come under pressure.

‘We’re a waterways city, there really is nowhere else in Australia which has a waterways network like ours.

‘People live, work and play on our waterways which also support a huge diversity of animal and plant life.

‘This users study builds on our earlier economic assessment which confirmed that the waterways are a natural asset worth $26 billion. We’re using the findings of both studies to improve our planning and make sure our decisions are based on sound information.

‘For example, we know we have 32,000 registered recreational vessels on the Gold Coast with this number expected to grow to almost 50,000 by 2031.

‘That’s not counting non-motorised craft like kayaks and stand-up paddleboards which don’t have to be registered.

‘We need to improve our understanding of where people are going when they head out on the water, what types of things they’re doing, how they interact with the natural assets of the waterways environment, and what other types of craft they’re interacting with.

‘This information will help us to better understand how busy the waterways could become and determine where the likely pressure points could be. We can then start thinking about how we’ll manage future growth in use to ensure our waterways continue to be enjoyed safely by all users.’ Mr Morris said.

The study has found that:

  • there is a lack of suitable information about the type and number of vessels using the waterways at particular times, including the sites they’re visiting, why they’re using the waterways and the quality of the user experience
  • there is an opportunity to involve waterways users in supplying information to help with future planning
  • there is an opportunity to introduce concepts such as Marine Spatial Planning as a tool to help manage the distribution of waterways users and their activities, unlocking some areas that are currently under- utilised
  • boating traffic in the northern Gold Coast waterways region (the area between the Logan River and the Broadwater north of the Seaway) is expected to triple in line with population increases in the next 25 years
  • there is a need for more information about people’s expectations and experiences of crowding to help with planning
  • user enjoyment of the waterways is closely tied to the availability of natural spaces and
  • there is a need for predictive modelling to help anticipate where the risk of incidents, accidents and injury may increase based on forecast growth in vessel numbers and waterways usage.

Mr Morris said the study was an important first step in helping the GCWA identify gaps in its knowledge and decide what further information needs to be gathered to help it come up with management solutions best suited to the Gold Coast environment.

Information gathered during the initial study will be fed into consultation sessions on the review of the GCWA’s Gold Coast Waterways Management Strategy 2014-23 planned for this financial year.

GCWA engaged Gold Coast-based Envirosphere Consulting to help it undertake the study which is available to read in full here:

Users & Uses Study Volume 1: Technical Report

Users & Uses Study Volume 2: Discussion Paper