Our Nomination

The Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve extends from Burleigh beach 100 metres north of the Council stormwater outlet to the Qld/NSW border and 500 metres out from the low tide water line. This is what the Qld State Government has committed towards and it is hoped the City of Gold Coast will join in with the State Government to support this World Surfing Reserve nomination.

The Surf Management Plan Advisory Committee, Meeting 3, Agenda Item 9.

Purpose of Report 

1. To provide preliminary overview of World Surfing Reserves (WSR) in regard to background, application process, governance and management; and
2. To identify additional information required to be able to comprehensively assess the implications for the City of seeking WSR status.

World Surfing Reserves (WSR) is a global program/initiative launched in 2009 by the Save the Waves (STW) Coalition, an organisation aimed at protecting global surf habitats.


The Save The Waves Coalition (STW), along with key partners National Surfing Reserves (NSR) Australia and the International Surfing Association (ISA), launched World Surfing Reserves in 2009.

Governance and Management of a World Surfing Reserve

World Surfing Reserves was founded by STW in conjunction with National Surf Reserves Australia. It also incorporates other key partnerships including with the International Surfing Association (ISA), enabling it to work with all the surfing federations around the world, as well as the Centre for Responsible Travel (CREST) at Stanford, a not for profit organisation dedicated to responsible travel practices around the world.

Beyond that, WSR is governed and managed by several bodies: the Vision Council, Executive Committee, and Field Team. The Vision Council is a global group of thought leaders from the surfing, environmental, scientific, media and business communities, charged with the overall vision and guidance of the program. The Executive Committee is a subset of the Vision Council and their charter is to lead the program and make key decisions. The Field Team is made up of STW staff as well as partner organization staff and is responsible for administering and managing the program on a day-to-day basis.

Questions to be addressed

While the preliminary investigation and information provided above is somewhat helpful, there remain many questions to be addressed in relation to WSR status before a decision to endorse an application could be made.

Q1. What would constitute a Local Stewardship Plan, as required in the WSR application process?

It is recognised that the Gold Coast City Council has, and is developing, a comprehensive Surf Management Plan (SMP) and that members of the Gold Coast WSR are members of the committee developing the Gold Coast SMP. It is more than likely that the LSP will endorse the SMP in its entirety as the LSP for the Gold Coast. Learn more.

Q2. What would be the status of such a plan, and who has the authority to make it?

The LSP is implemented by consultation between members of the community, and the World Governing Body for World Surfing Reserves. In this consultation process, all stakeholders having interests in the area of the WSR will be given the opportunity to participate, but in the end it is likely that the work undertaken by the Gold Coast City Council will be endorsed.

Q3. How would (or should) the Local Stewardship Plan relate to the City's Surf Management Plan, the City's Shoreline Management Plan, and the City's Ocean Beaches Strategy?

The LSP would simply be part of, or included in the SNP and other protocols being developed by the Council. It is envisaged that the Gold Coast City Council would be a prime mover in respect of the LSP.

Q4. Can the Local Stewardship Plan simply be the City's Surf Management Plan or Ocean Beaches Strategy?

This is likely to be the case. However, as it is a consultative process, there may be discrete areas where different approaches or strategies are recommended. We do not believe that there will be any issues of serious conflict which will detract from this relationship.

Q5. Is there an intention to create a Local Stewardship Council and who would participate in this group? The WSR process outlines that the Local Stewardship Council is responsible for representing and managing the reserve on an ongoing basis?

See above. It is contemplated that the Queensland Government and the Gold Coast City Council would be very important advisors to the LSC. That the GCWSR committee would continue as a LSC with representation on the Councils SMP committee and have input as a monitoring group to recommend and suggest better, safer, cleaner ideas for the State and Local authorities.

Q6. Have the WSR group formed a Terms of Reference for the Local Stewardship Council?

As stated in the preliminary comments, no Terms of Reference for the LSC have been formulated at this point. This occurs after the region has been approved. Terms of Reference will pertain to the SMP being developed, just as long as full recognition of the WSR is incorporated in the SMP.

However, we would like to encourage the message Respect, Preserve and Protect existing iconic breaks, celebrate the history, culture and lifestyle and invite and embrace all beach and surf goers as part of a World Surfing Reserve that caters for all the public to enjoy.

Q7. Can examples be provided to demonstrate the successful operation of a Local Stewardship Council?

Perhaps the best example of the successful operation of a LSC is the interrelationship between the Manly Council, which is a participant in the LSC in respect of the Manly Freshwater World Surfing Reserve. Copies of material published in respect of that relationship can be provided if necessary. Please note letter from Manly Council Environment Officer (Attachment 2) also a letter of support from the Mayor Jean Hay (Attachment 3). Manly Council's Environment Officer has advised that the Freshwater/Manly WSR and NSR would be included in Manly Council's Surf Management Plan.

Q8. What is the role of the State Government and the Council in the declaration and future management of WSR status?

As stated above, if one starts from the understanding that the LSP will be almost entirely complementary to the processes being imposed by the state and local authority, it is contemplated that both the State and the Gold Coast City Council would be prominent members of the WSR in the future management. The WSR needs full support from state & council. Both officiate at WSR dedication. Usually the State Minister and Mayor. Also both can provide funds and in-kind support for dedication (plaque, booklet, materials, etc.) such as the NSR dedication on the Gold Coast.

Q9. What effect does WSR status have on the current National Surfing Reserve Status? Are the two designations compatible? Does WSR status convey benefits to the City over and above that gained from National Surfing Reserve Status?

The two entities are closely related however WSR lifts the status from National to World. The NSR recognises regional areas in Australia, whereas the WSR is far more prestigious and important. Chairman of National Surfing Reserves, Professor Andrew Short advises that once the WSR is dedicated, the WSR Committee takes over running of the WSR/NSR and only one committee is needed with its rep on the SMP committee.

Q10. The WSR proposal contemplates the region from Burleigh to Snapper Rocks, whereas the Surf Management Plan will address the totality of the City's ocean beaches. What issues arise from this?

It is not contemplated that issues will arise from the fact that the WSR proposal will relate only to a substantial part of the Gold Coast City Council foreshore. Professor Andrew Short says the WSR will sit as a special area with the entire SMP as he says it will be the jewel in the SMP.

Q11. What costs or restrictions might WSR status seek to impose on the City and the State Government in terms of each's respective statutory responsibilities for management of ocean beachs?

A WSR status will not impose costs or restrictions on Gold Coast City Council or State Government's management of ocean beaches. GCWSR will be honorific, thoughtful, and respectful of state and local authorities.

A Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve proposal does not seek legal implication. GCWSR would request provision of representatives, and possibly contribution of small costs towards publicity of the region as having WSR status.

Q12. How will costs associated with acquiring and maintaining WSR status be met? By which body? What are those costs likely to be?

Because of the prestige to the region and the publicity which arises there from, the costs of dedication are usually covered by the State and Council such as plaques, booklet and the Dedication Ceremony. No fees are sought, other than normal "park" or "national park" type publicity indicating the relevance of the area.

Q13. What implications flow from the State election on a WSR application and obtaining a considered position from a new State Government?

On 26 February 2015, Andrew McKinnon met with the Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef, Hon Dr Steven Miles. 

Dr Steven Miles welcomed and supported the proposal for a Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve from Burleigh to Snapper Rocks. The Minister was enthusiastic and positive about such a great initiative to make Queensland the second World Surfing Reserve in Australia. Recognising both surfing and natural values of the area.

To quote the Minister:

 "On behalf of the Queensland Government, I welcome and support your organisations initiative which will celebrate these beaches' status as icon of surf culture and heritage and strengthen the reputation and status of the Gold Coast as one of our most livable communities and an international destination of choice.

As you well know the Queensland Government considers that it is important that any application to have this honour bestowed upon the Southern Gold Coast should have support across your community. I was very pleased by your commitment to engage with the Gold Coast City Council to secure its support before proceeding with the application and I will seek an opportunity to speak personally with the Mayor of the City of Gold Coast Councillor Tom Tate in support of your proposal.

The Queensland Government looks forward to your success in achieving a World Surfing Reserve on the Southern Gold Coast and all the benefits it will bring to the region." See Letter.
Q14. What can be learned from the approach adopted by, and the experience of the Manly Council in relation to its WSR status?

The Manly Freshwater WSR dedication ceremony in 2012 was attended and supported by the Prime Minister Tony Abbott, then Federal Opposition Leader, the Premier of NSW Michael Baird then Treasurer, Mayor Jean Hay and 11 times World Champion Kelly Slater, who was chosen as Manly's WSR Ambassador. Last year Andrew McKinnon met with Manly Council's Mayor Jean Hay who overwhelmingly supported the Gold Coast as Australia's second WSR. A letter of support from the Manly Mayor is within the GCWSR nomination application.

There are publications available from Manly Council which speak highly of the interrelationship between the two groups and relevant booklets that were supplied on both the WSR and NSR Manly Freshwater sites. In January, Manly celebrated its 100th year centenary marking the historical visit by Duke Kahanamoku's famous surfing demonstration. Last year Manly celebrated the first ever World Surfing event in 1964 won by Midget Farrelly of Dee Why and Phyllis O'Donnell of Kingscliff, Tweed Shire and NSW.

Recently in February, Manly Council had a very successful "Australian Open of Surfing". This raised Manly's already high status as a surfing destination to a new level, and this will be the same result for the Gold Coast. Manly Council are adopting their WSR/NSR as part of their Coastal Management Plan. Learn more.

Q15. What are the implications of the WSR nomination/status on Tallebudgera and Currumbin Creeks, including current access, uses/users, etc. (especially in regard to the entrances)?

None. We will work in with the GC Authority and abide by safety regulations and pre-existing activities and help suggest better ideas for the safety of all concerned. We see the need for dredging Tallebudgera for Burleigh Beach when its eroded. Re Currumbin Alley which is becoming more crowded every year, especially with the popularity of Stand Up Paddle Boards, one suggestion is for boaties to use horns or sirens to alert the surfing public when crossing the bar such as at the Pass Byron Bay with the diving and offshore runabouts are monitored safely by Byron Lifeguards. GC lifeguards could play such a safety role such as the example of Byron.

How Recognition of World Surfing Reserve Status is Achieved

The process is broken down into four main phases:

1) the nomination/application process,
2) the selection process,
3) dedications/enshrinements, and
4) ongoing monitoring and management.

After applying and being selected, each WSR location creates a Local Stewardship Council to implement and manage that reserve.

Program Management 

World Surfing Reserves is governed by a global five-member Executive Committee with the assistance of a Vision Council. STW, a not for profit organisation, serves as fiscal administrator of the initiative. Reserves are implemented through a partnership between WSR and local communities.

WSR Vision Council 

Membership of the Council is: 

Chad Nelsen (USA), 
Dean LaTourrette (USA), 
Drew Kampion (USA),
Fernando Aguerre (USA/Argentina), 
Hugo Tagholm (UK), 
Jess Ponting (Australia),
João De Macedo (USA/Portugal), 
Len Materman (USA), 
Michael Blum (USA), 
Pedro Bicudo (Portugal),
Tony Butt (Spain/UK), 
Steve Hawk (USA), 
Neil Lazarow (Australia), 
Stéphane Latxague (France),
Will Henry (USA) 
Zach Plopper (USA).

Application Process 

Step 1: Submit a letter of inquiry

The letter must include the surf break or surf zone for consideration, including the quality and consistency of the wave or surf zone; unique environmental characteristics; surf culture; and community support for the designation of a WSR site. 

Step 2: Response to letter of inquiry

Once received, the letter will then be evaluated by WSR, and either a request for an application or a denial notification will be sent within three weeks of receiving the letter of inquiry.

Step 3: WSR Application Submitted

WSR will briefly review the application for completeness, and will send a response regarding the application’s completeness within two weeks. If the application is complete, it will then be evaluated for potential eligibility as a World Surfing Reserve. If the application is not complete, WSR will return the submission to the applicant and request further information.

Step 4: WSR vote on application

The World Surfing Reserve Vision Council will vote on received applications deemed complete based on the criteria (below). Voting currently occurs once a year in October. WSR will select one applicant site from the pool in a competitive process, announcing the approved site in late October.

1) Quality and Consistency of the wave(s)

• quality of wave(s)
• surfeable days / year
• site of pro contest
• wave variety

2) Environmental characteristics

• recognized biodiversity hotspot
• threatened species present
• connected to water resources
• past/present wave threat likely to be mitigated protected designations
• undeveloped area
• key issue identified
• clear avenue for legal protection locally
• provides key ecosystem services

3) Culture and Surf history

• site of nat'l cultural significance
• importance in surf history
• site of regional significance

4) Capacity and local support

• letters of support from:
- surf community
- govt support
- ngos
- business
- academia
• sustainable financing
• clearly identified manager
• surf is key part of local economy
• clearly identified reserve ambassador

Step 5: Response to WSR application

Notification of acceptance or denial of the application will be sent through email or through mail if necessary. Again, only one site is to be selected per year.

Implementation Process

Once World Surfing Reserves has approved a site, the process of implementation begins, which is conducted in a spirit of collaboration between local communities and World Surfing Reserves. The following are steps for the implementation of a WSR site:

Announcement of Approved Site: First, a formal announcement will be made about the site’s approval, which includes communication to stakeholders and the media. This could include a press conference held in the community approved for a WSR. 

Stewardship Planning Process: Following the announcement of a WSR site, the local community and Save The Waves begin work on the planning process. This includes the creation of a Local Stewardship Council (LSC), the drafting of the Local Stewardship Plan, community outreach and education, and the planning of the site’s official dedication.

The Dedication: The official dedication or enshrinement of a site requires a minimum of six months from the approval date, to allow proper time for planning and to complete the various components of implementation. The dedication event is a very important ceremonial component of becoming a World Surfing Reserve. The dedication may also include a fundraising event to help support the implementation and ongoing management of the reserve. 

Following the Dedication: After the site’s official dedication, the LSC, Save The Waves Coalition and local partners work to carry out the plan. The LSC submits an annual report to WSR at the end of each calendar year.