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Great Sandy Marine Park artificial reefs

The artificial reefs are expected to attract an abundance of marine life. Photo: Queensland Government.

The artificial reefs are expected to attract an abundance of marine life. Photo: Queensland Government.

Members of the recreational fishing community were involved in the planning process. Photo: Queensland Government.

Members of the recreational fishing community were involved in the planning process. Photo: Queensland Government.

In May 2015, the Queensland Government established Simpson Artificial Reef and Hardie Artificial Reef in the Great Sandy Marine Park. These reefs provide recreational anglers and divers with a range of exciting fishing and explorative opportunities.

Artificial reefs attract and sustain a wide diversity of marine life by providing protection from predators, shelter from ocean currents, breeding opportunities and a supply of rich food sources. The variety of habitats created by the Great Sandy artificial reefs will in time sustain a diversity of marine species.

A team effort

A crane lowers the artificial reef structures into position. Photo: Queensland Government.

A crane lowers the artificial reef structures into position. Photo: Queensland Government.

Construction of the reefs was a significant undertaking involving careful planning and development. Although the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) was the lead agency responsible, a working group was established at the beginning of the project to guide the development of the program. The working group comprised of representatives from recreational and commercial fishing bodies, the tourism industry, conservation groups, traditional owners, QPWS and other government departments.

The working group provided advice on all major aspects of the program, including determining the purpose of the reefs, site selection, materials to be used, and ongoing management (including reef monitoring and enhancement).

The working group

Special thanks and acknowledgement to the members of the working group representing the following organisations:

  • Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol
  • Maritime Safety Queensland
  • Fraser Coast Fishing Alliance
  • Hervey Bay Game Fishing Club
  • The Boat Club (Fishing and Social Club)
  • Queensland Game Fishing Association
  • Local fishing representatives
  • Roy Rufus Artificial Reef Association
  • Bundaberg Skindivers Club
  • Australian Underwater Federation
  • Queensland Seafood Industry Association
  • Queensland Charter Vessel Industry Association
  • Wide Bay Burnett Environmental Council
  • Fraser Coast Opportunities
  • Tourism representatives
  • Local Environmental researchers
  • Traditional Owners, the Butchulla People
  • Local Member of Parliament.

Simpson Artificial Reef

Simpson Artificial Reef is located in waters near the Outer Banks, 7nm from Urangan Marina in Hervey Bay. It is named after Woody Island’s first head lighthouse keeper Mr John Simpson.

During construction, fifteen reef structures were distributed over an 80ha area in five clusters, to a depth of 10-16m. Each cluster is made up of three reef structures.

Hardie Artificial Reef

Hardie Artificial Reef is located 2nm north-east of Little Woody Island. The artificial reef is named after Woody Island’s longest serving head lighthouse keeper, Mr Peter Hardie.

During construction, fifteen reef structures were distributed over 160ha in five clusters, to a depth of 10–16m. Each cluster is made up of three reef structures.

Creating a reef

The reef structure. Photos: Queensland Government.

The reef structure. Photos: Queensland Government.

Creating the artificial reefs involved extensive research and planning, including mapping and analysis of physical, environmental, social and economic factors. The analysis informed decision making, including artificial reef location and material selection. Some of the factors considered included:

  • aspirations and diversity of potential users
  • historic use of potential sites, including recreational and commercial fishing, and diving
  • cultural sites and sensitivities
  • the desired marine species to be attracted
  • proximity to natural reefs and declared marine national park (green) zones
  • site conditions and characteristics, including wind, waves, tide, and water depth
  • reef structure clearance—minimum 5m clearance at the Lowest Astronomical Tide
  • accessibility of the site
  • material characteristics, including design, size, weight, density and composition
  • material life expectancy—minimum of 30 years
  • ability to withstand significant weather events
  • deployment constraints
  • compliance with Australian standards and legislation
  • safety considerations (during and after construction).

The reef structure

Each reef structure is made of steel reinforced with concrete. It has a large internal volume of 80 cubic metres, measures 4m x 4m x 5m and weighs 23 tonne. The combined modules form vertical relief and cellular spaces that create complex habitats and allow the reef structures to permanently recruit sustainable populations of target species, such as reef fish, pelagic fish and crustaceans.

More information

For more information on the artificial reef program, please contact the department.

Last updated
3 May 2019