Half yearly rate notices were issued on 23 January 2024, with a due date of 23 February 2024. View previous notices in MyCouncil.

North Shelly Beach pilot project

This project is an outcome of the Shelly Beach to Moffat Beach coastal study.

Feedback from our community, and industry and government experts informed these outcomes.

The study’s findings are available at Have your say. There is a summary in the table below.

Please subscribe to updates on this project to receive timely information about any developments.

Project scope

The goal is to enhance what our community loves about the area and make some changes to improve conditions for turtles nesting on the beach.

To do this we are using a best practice approach that incorporates advice from the technical experts at the Queensland Department of Environment and Science and the Queensland Herbarium for turtles, dune, and vegetation restoration.

It involves restoring the dunes to a condition that provides the best opportunity for turtle nesting success and better represents the group of plants you could expect to find in this dunal environment.

This pilot project is a trial and if successful it could be rolled out to other areas of Shelly Beach foreshore.

The pilot project will take place outside of any turtle nesting times.

What's planned?

The red line on the map (PDF, 143.77KB) shows the pilot study area, with work only occurring in the orange and light green zones closest to the ocean.

Pilot project at North Shelly Beach - final trial area map

Pilot project at North Shelly Beach - final trial area map

Zone 1 - Marine turtle nesting habitat

In zone 1, we will remove the cottonwood trees using machinery from the front 10 metres of the dune and replace with native grasses, vines, sparse shrubs, and trees that have shallow root systems. This is so the roots and trees don’t get in the way when turtles are digging a nest. It will also create a more inviting and accessible space for turtles to nests.

Plant species that are expected to naturally occur in this area will be used, including spinifex and beach bean.

Zone 2 - Buffer maintenance

In zone 2, we will create a buffer around the turtle nesting habitat to stop cottonwoods moving into zone 1 and impacting the available space for turtle nesting..

We will manage the cottonwoods in this area through scheduled maintenance, pruning along the buffer zone and trimming branches (lift pruning) around young native trees to help them grow and increase the diversity of plants in the dunes. Grasses, shrubs, and trees suitable for nesting turtles will be planted in this zone to gradually replace the cottonwoods.

We will also work to make the beach darker so turtles and hatchlings can find their way to the ocean. Unofficial beach accesses and tracks create gaps in vegetation and mean more light makes its way to the beach.

We will plant trees to fill these gaps and block the light so it’s better for turtle sea-finding behaviour (read more below about why light pollution is a problem for turtles).

Plant species that are most likely to naturally occur in this area will be used including:

  • casuarina
  • banksia
  • pandanus
  • acacia, and
  • electryon.

Zone 3 - Vegetated dark horizon

In zone 3, we will not be removing any vegetation.

We will work to make the beach darker so turtles and hatchlings can find their way to the ocean. Unofficial beach accesses and tracks create gaps in vegetation and mean more light makes its way to the beach.

We will plant trees to fill these gaps and block the light so it’s better for turtle sea-finding behaviour (read more below about why light pollution is a problem for turtles).

No additional cottonwood trees will be planted in this zone. Plant species that are most likely to naturally occur in this area will be used including:

  • casuarina
  • banksia
  • pandanus
  • tuckeroo, and
  • electryon.

Zone 4 - New vegetated dark horizon and coastal pathway amenity

In zone 4, like zone 2 and 3, we will make changes to the plants to support turtle sea-finding behaviour.

Through careful planning and strategic landscaping, we will plant individual trees and shrubs along the coastal pathway that are aesthetically pleasing and contribute to the overall enjoyment of our community.

These trees will also assist to fill gaps in the dunal vegetation by further consolidating the vegetated dark horizon and supporting turtle sea-finding behaviour.

Next steps

EPBC referral - COMPLETE

An EPBC referral to the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) was required before any of this work can take place. 

The referral identified and assessed the environmental values and impacts prescribed as Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES) under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act).

The referral is now complete, with the DCCEEW handing down their decision that the project is “not controlled action if taken in a particular manner”. View the decision notice.

The "Particular Manner" refers to measures council must abide by to avoid significant impacts to the threatened species and communities, and migratory species listed in the referral.

We will now consider how these measures affect the project delivery timeline and will update our community on this soon. 

To stay updated on this project please subscribe to updates.

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) referral - COMPLETE

We have received approval for our project under the Fisheries Act. This was required as marine plants are protected under Queensland Government legislation.

Construction work

Timing of work

Under the permit conditions, we can’t disturb the foredunes during marine turtle nesting season – which is 1 October to 31 April.

Work will only be taking place inside the pilot site footprint. It will start after turtle nesting season (from 1 May 2024) when conditions are suitable. 

What's planned (starting 1 May 2024)

  • The informal beach access between Beach Access 277 and 278 will be closed to help restore the dunes on 1 May 2024.
  • Cottonwood removal from the foredune and dunal reprofiling and restoration works for the pilot project area will take place as soon as conditions are suitable.
  • We will plant trees to help fill the gaps and block the light shining onto the beach (creating a dark horizon) so it’s better for turtle sea-finding behaviour.
  • Through careful planning and strategic landscaping, we will discreetly plant individual trees along the coastal pathway that are aesthetically pleasing and contribute to the overall enjoyment of our community. This will also help to create a dark horizon.
  • We’ll extend the existing temporary beach fencing at the front of pilot study area to help protect the dunes.

Background

Why it’s important to get the balance right between turtles and trees on the dunes

Turtles

The number of loggerhead turtle species nesting along the Queensland coastline; including Sunshine Coast beaches, has reduced significantly since the 1970s to the point that they are now critically endangered.

With only one in 1000 turtle hatchlings surviving to adulthood, every nest and every egg is critical to the ongoing survival and recovery of this critically endangered population.

Buddina and Shelly beaches typically record more turtle nests than any other Sunshine Coast beach.

In fact, Shelly Beach has been identified by Queensland Government as the index beach for the entire Sunshine Coast rookery. It was first studied in the 1970s and has been studied annually since 2005.  

The proposed actions will help to make this beach more inviting and safer for turtles to nest on. There will also be more area to relocate turtle nests in the event of large tides or extreme weather. All TurtleCare activities are done under Queensland Turtle Conservation Project permits.

Trees

In the early 1960s, when Shelly Beach was mined for shell grit, the dunes were destroyed, and all the original vegetation removed.

Over time, after successive cyclones in the mid-1970s, attempts were made to rebuild the dunes by reshaping the sand and planting vegetation to hold the dunes together> This included some cottonwood trees.

While it’s appropriate for a few cottonwood trees to grow in these dunes, the trees have spread and now cover an unusually large area across the dunal system - upsetting the natural balance between plants and turtles. It is predicted that without human intervention, the cottonwoods will continue to cover much of the foredune area for the foreseeable future.

Light pollution

Light pollution is a problem for marine turtles for several reasons:

  1. Disorientation: Marine turtle hatchlings rely on natural dark sky cues to locate the ocean. Bright artificial light near nesting beaches, and sky glow (caused by lighting within 82km of the coastline) can disorientate hatchlings, leading them away from the sea and toward inland areas and roads. This disorientation increases their vulnerability to predators, exhaustion, dehydration, and ultimately decreases their chances of survival.
  2. Nesting disturbances: Female marine turtles return to the beach at night time to lay their eggs. Artificial lighting along the coast can deter nesting turtles from coming ashore or cause them to abandon nesting attempts. This disruption can significantly reduce the number of successful nests, negatively impacting the population.

Community engagement

An in-depth analysis into how the coastal strip from Shelly Beach to Moffat Beach will be managed in the future was completed in April 2023.

It included expert technical advice and extensive community input to inform the study outcomes.

The study’s findings are available at Have your say, and a summary is provided in the table below.

Key issueSummaryRecognised authorityProject implications
Land designationLong standing tension and difference of opinion with regards to what the land between William Street and Russell Street is to be used for and its appropriate maintenance in support of that use.
  • council
  • Department of Environment and Science (Coastal Protection)
  • Department of Resources (Land and surveying).
  • council is using the land for purposes consistent with land designation and relevant council and State approvals
  • council is required to maintain and enhance the area
  • there is room for improvement on the clarity, coordination, and approach to landscape enhancement, and
  • management.
Dune conditions and vegetation considerations

Long standing tension and difference of opinion regarding the:

  • appropriate vegetation type on the dune
  • appropriate approach to revegetation work and vegetation management for area 1. William Street to Russell Street and area 2. William Street south to the drain

Dunes: 

  • Department of Environment and Science.

Vegetation:

  • Queensland Herbarium, Department of Environment and Science.


Dunes:

  • sensitive landscape subject to dynamic influences (coastal erosion)
  • has important coastal protection role and habitat role, supporting marine turtle nesting
  • valued community amenity
  • supports valued vegetation communities.

Vegetation:

  • appropriate vegetation RE advised as RE12.2.14
  • cottonwood tree appropriate in the mix but not in its current behaviour
  • management supported to improve the overall biodiversity of the dune, in line with what would be expected of this type of regional ecosystem.
Considerations for marine turtles (at Shelly Beach)

Long standing tension and differences regarding the conditions required to support nesting turtle populations:

  • space for nests
  • light impacts
  • vegetation limitations.
  • Migratory Species Section, Biodiversity Conservation Division, Department of Agriculture, Water
  • Environment Chief Scientific Officer, Department of Environment and Science.
  • on the Sunshine Coast Buddina and Shelly beaches typically record more nests than any other beaches
  • Shelly beach is identified by State government as the index beach for the entire Sunshine Coast rookery (first studied in the 1970’s)
  • an elevated frontal dune and dark horizon are important nesting habitat requirements for turtles
  • activity conducted outside of critical nesting period and not piloted on core habitat areas
  • referral under the EPBC Act advised where disturbance to vulnerable species habitat expected (MNES).

Where to from here

This pilot project is one of several outcomes of the Shelly to Moffat Beach coastal study that will be delivered by council over the next 5 years.

To stay updated on this project and receive timely information about any developments, please subscribe to updates.

Safety at Moffat Beach Headland

This project will be aimed at improving community safety at Moffat Headland after a geotechnical expert identified a risk to people using the area. The report suggested that adding more safety fencing in some areas was one way to address this.

Council is aware of the community's concerns about fencing at this location.

Before any changes are made, the community will be asked for input as we work to find appropriate solutions that will preserve the beautiful headland while addressing the risk to public safety.

Realign the William St car park

Based on the outcomes of the study, council is considering realigning the William Street car park. Before any changes are made, the community will be asked for input.

Trail signage on George Watson park

Based on the outcomes of the study, council is considering more trail marking in George Watson park. Before any changes are made, the community will be asked for input.