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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 coastal communities, a significant nature-based drawcard for tourism, a driver of business and an increasingly mainstream sport which is also recognised as an Olympic sport.

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

Of just 12 World Surfing Reserves recognised globally, 2 are located in Queensland.

The Queensland Government is committed to protecting these natural assets as part of the Activate! Queensland 2019-2029 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 as well as for sport and recreation purposes.

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

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

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

The Gold Coast and Noosa 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 coastal processes, 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 World Surfing Reserves have been established. Membership comprises:

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

Why are greater protections needed?

Surfing provides major sport, recreation and tourism opportunities and is 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 opportunities to address any gaps in protections will ensure Queensland's World Surfing Reserves will remain iconic and favoured destinations for surfers, visitors and all members of the community to enjoy.

Ministerial Surfing Roundtable

In early 2020, the Honourable Mick de Brenni MP, then 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
  • statutory bodies
  • 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

Between 2 October and 30 November 2020, the Queensland Government undertook community consultation on the Protections for World Surfing Reserves in Queensland - discussion paper 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 support for 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. Roundtable members committed to further investigate legislative and non-legislative options, in collaboration with relevant government, community and industry stakeholders, to enhance protections for World Surfing Reserves in Queensland, where needed.

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

On 14 September 2023, the Department of Tourism and Sport convened a fourth Surfing Roundtable to discuss a draft World Surfing Reserves Protection Policy which was developed by a Queensland Government World Surfing Reserves Interdepartmental Working Group. The Working Group invited members to provide feedback on the draft Protection Policy over a two month consultation period.

Read the communique for this meeting (PDF, 74.0KB)

Next steps

The Working Group will consider feedback provided by members on the draft Protection Policy and progress a finalise Protection Policy for Government approval. Implementation of the Protection Policy is anticipated to be achieved by the first half of 2024.

More information

Last updated: 29 Jan 2024