Artificial reefs to the rescue???

Opinion piece by Mel Bradbury
5 May 2011.

Today’s ABC News story on artificial reefs, highlights an issue that has been brewing for some time. The belief that all artificial reef projects serve the same purpose and are the potential solution to receding beaches, and perhaps our sea level rise dilemma.

In the story the ABC talks to residents from Old Bar NSW about a new artificial reef that will be deployed off Sydney. The residents are hopeful that this Sydney project could assist them in their efforts as “The Old Bar Sand Replenishment Group has been calling for a similar artificial reef to control local erosion problems.”

An octagonal steel skeletal offshore artificial reef weighing 35 tonnes and standing 13 metres high used in Korea (source: NSW DPI)

The problem is that the reef off Sydney is designed to be an offshore fishing reef and the reef that the Old Bar residents would like is a beach protection reef.

There has been a lot of discussion recently here in NSW about artificial reefs. We had the sinking of HMAS Adelaide off Terrigal; yesterday, the NSW Primary Industries Minister announced an artificial reef to be built off Sydney later this year, and for the past several months the residents of Old Bar have been in the media discussing the fundraising they have been conducting for the feasibility study into an artificial reef off their coastline for beach protection.

Images of the HMAS Adelaide after the sinking thanks to Robbert Westerdyk (Source: Terrigal Dive Centre)

So many different artificial reef projects in NSW, but not one of them is alike. The sinking of the HMAS Adelaide project was designed as a diving reef. The reef to be deployed off Sydney is specifically designed as a fishing reef and the reef proposed by residents at Old Bar is to protect their section of coastline from erosion.

In addition to this in NSW we have estuarine artificial reefs that have been built by our Fisheries department for the specific function of improving fishing, and in other states such as Queensland they have built artificial surfing reefs.

Surfing Reef design by Offshore Surf Reefs (Source:

Given the massive cost of these reef projects, not only the construction and deployment costs, but the major costs in design and approval, can they be designed to suit all purposes (fishing, surfing, erosion minimisation and diving)? I would guess that the answer is no, but perhaps there may be some cost savings to be gained by the different parties cooperating and sharing information, particularly in the design and approvals stages???