It's hoped a new artificial reef will protect the Gold Coast's signature beaches from the effects of erosion and extreme weather events in the future.
Announced last August, and launched in the wake of ex-tropical cyclone Oma's near-miss with south-east Queensland, the City of Gold Coast Council's $18.2 million artificial reef project is designed to protect the narrow Palm Beach from cyclonic swells and beach erosion.
"The reef has been designed to control wave energy by influencing waves and currents," says City of Gold Coast's director of transport and infrastructure Alton Twine.
Wave actions can devastate sand structure, and carry huge deposits of sand far from its original location. This can lead to scarped and scoured beaches.
"By harnessing those wave actions, we can actually keep sand in place and put it to better use as a buffer from future weather events."
The City of Gold Coast is unique among councils in that beach management is a big part of its daily operations. The local tourism industry relies on the coast looking its finest.
"Our pristine beaches are a big part of the Gold Coast's iconography, so we spend a lot to time and money planning how best to manage them," Twine says.
"Beach tractors are out there every morning combing for debris. We feel as though we're assisting Mother Nature in maintaining the beaches."
Maintenance of the city's beaches costs $2.75 million annually, while dredging of sand in Tallebudgera and Currumbin creeks costs a further $900,000 per year.
Palm Beach is one of the most vulnerable on the coast, so it's received extra attention.
In 2017, as part of the Palm Beach Shoreline Project, 470,000 cubic metres of sand were dumped in the beach's offshore zone to act as a buffer. The artificial reef is the second phase of that project.
"Our 20-year partnership with Griffith University has allowed us to devise the most effective sand management plan possible based on all available data," Twine says.
"The more knowledge we have, the better prepared we are."
Even though Oma didn't hit with the full force of a tropical cyclone, council had planned for a worst-case scenario.
"We experienced some scarping to the north, but otherwise we were lucky," Twine says.
An added bonus of the measures taken by council to protect the face of the Gold Coast is the environmental impact beneath the waves.
"The reef will attract marine life and create its own ecosystem over time," he says.
"And at the same time, certain swell conditions will cause reef breaks for the local surfing community. We have a good relationship with our surfers and fishers, so beach maintenance is undertaken with them in mind."
Construction of the reef is scheduled between April and October 2019, when calmer conditions prevail.
"The swells tend to hit in March, so after that, we can get started," Twine says.
The unpredictability of nature is a factor in the planning, but Twine says that's why they're doing the work in the first place.
"We're very happy with how our beaches look, and we want to keep them that way, so we have to prepare for anything."
Australian Associated Press