The stewardship committee of the Noosa World Surfing Reserve have been working over the past couple of months to help build the framework for proposed State government legislation to protect Queensland’s two World Surfing Reserves, Noosa and the Southern Gold Coast.
The legislation was flagged by the Premier at the launch of the Global Wave Conference on the Gold Coast last February, but then along came Covid-19, and suddenly we find ourselves with backs to the wall, trying to deliver a working model in time for legislation to be drafted ahead of the State election at the end of October. And what further complicates this process is that we are reaching into the unknown. Although specific legislation to protect surfing areas exists in other parts of the world – notably New Zealand – in Australia, while we have laws governing marine reserves and bathing reserves, we have none that cover surfing reserves.
And protection in this context means both from within and without.
When Noosa became a National Surfing Reserve in 2015, and then a World Surfing Reserve earlier this year, we established the designated area for protection, covering the five world class point breaks and four beach breaks between North Sunshine and the Noosa River mouth. About half the shoreline access to these breaks is within the Noosa National Park, which already offers a degree of protection from development and commercial activity, but the Noosa Bathing Reserve, the jurisdiction of council lifeguards and Noosa SLSC patrols and water operations, covers only from Access 9 to Access 25 – effectively from the river mouth groyne to the National Park gates.
The majority of people on our committee want the legislation to extend the bathing reserve so that it covers the surf breaks within the National Park, not to increase the duty of care of the lifesavers – although they frequently ignore the boundary in order to save lives on the outer bays – but so that all of the surf breaks within the World Surfing Reserve have the same protections from boats and personal water craft. This is not to suggest that we seek to ban either, just limit their use so that they don’t impede the use of our surf breaks for all surfers, in the same way that they are limited in the existing bathing reserve.
The surfing community is not quite of one voice about this – some hero surfers demand the right to tow in (only remotely possible on Noosa’s points on a handful of days a year anyway) whenever they want, no matter how many paddle surfers are in the water. Let’s hope that this issue can be resolved to the satisfaction of all, because the Noosa World Surfing Reserve does not want to see our point breaks become a dangerous circus like Kirra on the Gold Coast every swell event.
There are many other issues that we’re working through at the moment but the rules needed to create safe surfing zones for all seem to be the most vexing at the moment.
If you’re a surfer with an informed opinion that you want to share please contact the committee please email Phil at firstname.lastname@example.org