Great Sandy Marine Park Regional Profile: Woongarra Coast
The Woongarra Coast region of the marine park stretches from Burnett Heads in the north to the Elliott River in the south, and includes the north western sector of Hervey Bay. The coastal townships of Burnett Heads, Bargara and Elliott Heads are located on the coast adjacent to this region.
- View larger map showing zones in the Woongarra Coast region of the Great Sandy Marine Park .
- View larger map showing designated areas in the Woongarra Coast region of the Great Sandy Marine Park .
The coastline predominantly consists of an exposed rocky foreshore of hummock basalt interspersed with areas of sandy beach habitat. Along much of the coastline, this rocky substrate extends offshore to create intertidal and subtidal rocky outcrops on which coral reefs have developed. The most significant of these offshore extensions are Burkitt’s Reef, Hoffman’s Rocks, and Barolin Rock. These fringing coral reefs systems are some of the southernmost coral reefs found on the east coast of Australia1 and support an extensive flora and fauna community2,4,5.
The Elliott River is the largest waterway within this region of the marine park. It is a groundwater dependent system (i.e. its freshwater base flows are dependent on input from groundwater). The river is one of the few remaining coastal river systems in southern Queensland where its water flow is not impeded by a dam, weir or other form of waterway barrier 2. Seagrass meadows and diverse mangrove communities along the river create an important nursery ground for fish, as well as habitat and food sources for other species such as shorebirds, dugongs, and turtles2. Located at the mouth of the river is Dr Mays Island - a rocky island surrounded by both intertidal sandy areas, and coral and rocky reef habitats. The reefs are algae-dominated with some soft corals present2,4. Dr Mays Island also provides important shorebird roosting habitat, particularly for beach stone curlew and pied oystercatchers3.
The Woongarra Coast is an area of international significance for marine turtles, supporting the largest nesting population of loggerhead turtles (300-400 females) in the South Pacific6,7. Although the entire region is important to loggerheads and other marine turtle species, Mon Repos and its adjacent offshore waters in the north of this region are the focal point for loggerhead turtle activity. The vulnerable water mouse has also been recorded in a number of upper intertidal locations in the region8.
The Cochrane Artificial Reef is located in this region, approximately five kilometers ENE of the mouth of the Elliott River. This reef was developed by the Bundaberg and Districts Artificial Reef Association in 1993. Covering an area of approximately 32 hectares, this reef comprises sunken barges and light ships, several aircraft, and a range of concrete and steel modules. The artificial reef supports a complex reef ecosystem and is popular with both divers and fishers.
Mon Repos is a significant tourist drawcard to this area of the marine park and the Bundaberg Region more generally, with large numbers of tourists visiting during the turtle nesting and hatching season (November – March). Visitors and local residents are also attracted to the many sandy beach areas along the coastal fringe of the marine park, where recreational activities such as walking, swimming, surfing, paddle boarding, kite surfing and kayaking are popular. Beaches at Bargara and Elliott Heads are patrolled by local surf lifesaving clubs.
Recreational and commercial fishing
Fishing is an important activity conducted in this region of the marine park. Commercial fishers net for whiting and mullet, primarily within the Elliott River, pot for sand crabs, and otter trawl for prawns, scallops, bugs and sand crabs in the offshore waters. Recreational fishers target a range of fish species such as mackerel, bream, whiting, flathead, grass sweetlip, cod, tailor and snapper. The Elliott River is popular with specialist recreational anglers targeting species such as trevally, queenfish, mangrove jack and barramundi. Spear and rock fishing is undertaken around the fringing reef systems (outside of the marine national park zones) targeting species such as crayfish, mangrove jack, fingermark, coral trout and parrotfish. Fishing for reef and pelagic species is undertaken at the Cochrane Artificial Reef and at the region’s natural nearshore reefs.
The Woongarra Coast region is adjacent to a mix of land uses including residential, rural and some small conservation areas. The exposed and/or rocky nature of much of the coastline makes large areas of the region unsuitable for the development of coastal infrastructure. The Elliott River contains some small and larger scale structures associated with adjacent land uses, such as jetties, boat ramps, moorings, and prawn farm inlet/outlet structures. The management of this river as both a conservation park zone and a declared Fish Habitat Area (management A), however, significantly limits further development of these types of structures.
Marine park zoning
In the Woongarra Coast region, marine park management utilises four zone categories. The large offshore area of this region is managed as a general use zone. The Elliott River and most of the coastal fringe to the south of Bargara is managed as conservation park zone. Marine national park zones extend over each of Burkitt’s Reef, Hoffman’s Rocks, and Barolin Rock, with the coastal fringe north of Bargara a habitat protection zone.
The zoning arrangement is supplemented by a series of designated areas along the coastal fringe, centred on Mon Repos, that provide targeted protection for marine turtles. The Elliott River also forms part of the designated Great Sandy Area. This designated area allows for the continuation of some fishing practices that would normally be prohibited or limited within a conservation park zone. Specifically, commercial net fishing is allowed to continue, when commercial netting other than bait netting, would usually be prohibited. Recreational fishers are allowed to use up to three lines or rods per person when they would usually be limited to one line or rod per person.
Additional management arrangements
The Woongarra Coast region is overlaid and/or complemented by additional management initiatives including:
- the Elliott River declared Fish Habitat Area, which recognises the fish habitat values of this waterway and protects it from development-related disturbance.
- a range of fisheries and fish habitat management arrangements under the Fisheries Act 1994 (e.g. size limits, possession limits, gear restrictions, etc) that aim to sustainably manage fish stocks and fish passage, and protect marine plants from disturbance.
- protection of threatened species listed under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.
- the adjacent Mon Repos Conservation Park declared under the Nature Conservation Act 1992, which directly adjoins the marine park at Mon Repos.
- a suite of state legislation that delivers: coastal management, environment protection, vegetation and water management, management of maritime activities, and provides a framework for land use planning and development regulation.
- local government planning schemes, regional plans, natural resource management plans.
- Butler, B. Sommer, M. Zann, J.-x. Zhao and J. M. Pandolfi. “The impacts of flooding on the high-latitude, terrigenoclastic influenced coral reefs of Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia,” Coral Reefs, vol. 32, pp. 1149-1163, 2013.
- J. Mackenzie and N. Duke, “State of the mangroves report: Burnett Mary Region. A descriptive account and condition assessment of estuaries, tidal wetlands and mangroves. Final report to the Burnett Mary Regional Group,” University of Queensland, Centre for Marine Studies, Brisbane, Queensland, 2009.
- D. Milton and S. Harding, “Shorebirds of the Burnett Coast: surveys of critical high tide roosts,” Queensland Wader Study Group, Unpublished report, Burbank, Queensland, 2007.
- R. Alquezar, J. Scannell and W. Boyd, “Coastal fringing reefs of the Burnett Mary Region 2011,” A report to the Burnett Mary Regional Group. Centre for Environmental Management, CQ University Australia, Gladstone, Queensland, 2011.
- H. Bushell, “Assessment of the status of the benthic reef communities within the Woongarra Region,” Unpublished Third Year Undergraduate Report. School of Science and Management, Southern Cross University, Lismore, New South Wales, 2008.
- Old, T. Martin, A. Johnston, I. Butler, K. Pitt and R. Connolly, “Great Sandy Strait Ramsar site marine study: Coral and fish,” Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia, 2013.
- J. Limpus, M. McLaren, G. McLaren, C. Gatley, D. Limpus, K. O’Leary and T. Turner. Marine turtle nesting populations: Curtis Island and Woongarra Coast Flatback Turtles, 2015-2016 breeding season. Report produced for the Ecosystem Research and Monitoring Program Advisory Panel as part of Gladstone Ports Corporation’s ecosystem research and monitoring program. Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Queensland Government, Brisbane, 2016.
- J. Kaluza. Great Sandy Strait water mouse survey and monitoring project 2014-2018. Internal report, University of Queensland, 2018.
- There are currently no park alerts for this park.