The emergence of a stunning sandscape has prompted a shift in beach safety strategy on the Sunshine Coast.
Happy Valley and nearby Bulcock Beach at Caloundra have experienced a surge in visitation thanks to the formation of a huge sand spit.
This appeared following the January 2022 breakthrough at Bribie Island, 2km south, which has since become the dominant bar.
Thousands of locals, day trippers from Brisbane and tourists from near and far have been flocking to the area to enjoy the new sand spit and walk across to explore the island on the lower tide.
It is the biggest single change to the natural environment seen at the beach since the 1970s and early ‘80s when there was a big enough sand build-up to host fairs.
With the increased popularity has come increased concerns about water safety and the need for more eyes to watch over the masses.
A greater presence of lifeguards in the area is one of the key improvements to be made to beach safety services between Caloundra and Coolum.
Other enhancements include more roving patrols using All Terrain Vehicles, surf safety cameras, a boost to services for Maroochydore’s unpredictable river mouth and relocation of some lifeguards to where they are needed most.
These were endorsed as part of the Surf Life Saving Queensland – Sunshine Coast Council Lifeguard Service Plan 2023 – 2028 at Council’s latest Ordinary Meeting.
The plan includes a series of modifications which meet the demands of our region’s growing population, visitations and risks at local beaches.
New five-year plan to keep beaches safe
Community Portfolio Councillor Rick Baberowski said the implementation of the Service Plan will occur over an initial three-year period, with a service level review prior to years four and five of the plan.
“In October last year, Council signed off on a new five-year agreement with Surf Life Saving Queensland to ensure highly skilled professional lifeguards continue to patrol our beaches for at least the next five years,” Cr Baberowski said.
“This substantial arrangement will see Council inject just over $5.5 million per year into lifeguard services to keep residents and visitors to our region safe at the beach.
“As part of this agreement, Surf Life Saving Queensland and Council have agreed to a new five-year Service Plan to guide lifeguard services over this period.
“The aim of this new plan is to provide the best possible service across the region and address any gaps in service provision, identified risks and respond to growth pressures.
“This new Services Plan adopted by Council aims to ensure that Sunshine Coast beaches are as safe as possible year-round.”
Upcoming changes to lifeguard services
Among the most notable changes is a relocation of the existing lifeguard service, which operates during Queensland school holidays from September to May, from Golden Beach (beach access 317) to Happy Valley (beach access 293). This change will take effect from September 16, 2023.
The existing lifeguard service which operates at Wurtulla (beach access 248) will also be reallocated 500m north to Bokarina (beach access 246) from September 2024.
Since lifeguard services started at Bokarina Beach in September 2020, there has been significant growth in beach attendances, while attendances at Wurtulla have decreased during this time.
Both services are currently patrolled by lifeguards September to May during school holidays and weekends.
The decision to relocate these services has been made in partnership with Surf Life Saving Queensland (SLSQ).
Changes to existing services in the Surf Life Saving Queensland-Sunshine Coast Council Lifeguard Service Plan 2023 – 2028 have been developed to guide operational activities and provide improved service across the Sunshine Coast.
SLSQ Chief Lifeguard Anthony King said the changes to lifeguard services respond to changing demands and coastal risks in an efficient and responsible manner whilst maintaining beach safety standards.
“The additional lifeguard services will help ensure the safety of the growing the number of people who visited the beaches every year,” Mr King said.
“The increased presence of lifeguards on the coast will greatly assist in the delivery of our service and I thank Council for its continued investment in the safety of both locals and visitors alike.”
Expansions to existing lifeguard services and infrastructure:
- introduction of a new surveillance service (implemented as a Tier 4 service), with two lifeguards on duty with All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) during Christmas, Easter and Queensland school holidays with one lifeguard during the remaining school holidays and weekends between September to May commencing in 2023-2024.
- service reallocated to Happy Valley from September 2023 school holidays onwards. Continual monitoring to determine ongoing surveillance requirements commencing in 2023-2024.
- implement a Tier 2 service to be patrolled September to May, winter weekends, public holidays, and winter holidays with two lifeguards on duty. Reallocation of funds from Wurtulla will assist with this service commencing in 2024-2025
- service is reallocated to bolster Bokarina. Continual monitoring to determine ongoing surveillance requirements relocation commencing in 2024-2025 (September)
Maroochy River Mouth
- implement a lunch cover for Queensland school holidays, to ensure two lifeguards are maintained across the day commencing in 2023-2024
- increase to Tier 4 service to include weekends between September to May with two lifeguards on duty commencing in 2024-2025
- receives a tower (pending approvals) with vehicle for roving capabilities, rather than utilising Maroochydore SLSC’s ATV commencing in 2024-2025.
Buddina/ Kawana Waters
- implement a lunch cover for Queensland Christmas school holidays, to ensure two lifeguards are maintained across the day commencing in 2023-2024.
- dedicated ATV, rather than utilising Kawana SLSC’s ATV commencing in 2024-2025.
- implement a lunch cover for Queensland school holidays, to ensure lifeguard levels are maintained across the day commencing in 2024-2025.
- implement a winter weekend service commencing in 2023-2024
- implement a winter service (May to September) weekdays with one lifeguard commencing in 2025-2026.
Moffat Beach and Mooloolaba North
- assess the need for service level and implement emergency response beacon with surf safety camera attached. Collect data from camera or services and assess the need for ongoing service commencing in 2024-2025.
Lifeguard resourcing will also be increased from one to two lifeguards at the following beaches:
- two lifeguards September to May (weekends initially) commencing in 2024-2025
- two lifeguards September to May (weekdays) commencing in 2025-2026
- two lifeguards September to May commencing in 2024-2025
- two lifeguards May to September (weekends) commencing in 2025-2026
North Lunch Roving Relief
- Lifeguard resourcing increased to cover winter mid-week service for all single lifeguard location lunches, rove unpatrolled stretches of beach and provide back up from Marcoola to Twin Waters, commencing in 2025-2026.
- two lifeguards September, Christmas and Easter school holidays commencing in 2025-2026