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Wonder Reef on the Gold Coast


Wonder Reef on the Gold Coast

Wonder Reef is a fusion of art, science and engineering that empowers nature while bolstering tourism and the local economy. 

In collaboration with the Gold Coast City Council, Queensland State Government and artist Daniel Templeman, Subcon was contracted to build and install this world-class, cost-effective and innovative dive attraction. The engineered reef will be Australia’s first purpose-built dive attraction – a long-held catalyst project to diversify the City’s tourism offering, increase market share and boost tourism jobs. It is being delivered by the City with $2.5 million in matched funding under the Queensland Government’s Growing Tourism Infrastructure Fund.

A primary goal of the Gold Coast Dive Attraction is to deliver an iconic off-shore reef dive site, eco-engineered to attract bio-diverse marine life. This unique underwater journey will offer a distinct experience aimed at raising the profile of the Gold Coast and Queensland as a premier, unique and innovative nature-based dive destination. 

The site is 3.5 kilometres southeast of the seaway and 2.5 kilometres offshore from Philip Park, Main Beach, at a depth of 30 metres. It will be less than 20 minutes from dock to dive and will provide at least three return dive charters per day. With an average of 220 diving days per year, the attraction will be a welcome addition to the City’s tourism activities.

Underwater sculpture design by artist Daniel Templeman

Artist Daniel Templeman has been creating public artworks since 2004, with over 15 large-scale commissions throughout Australia. The Wonder Reef project has enabled Templeman to explore his ongoing themes of movement, repetition and time to create a living art reef that captures the imagination and attention of divers, art-lovers, architects, eco-tourists, engineers and scientists throughout the world. 

He describes the nine large-scale vertical underwater sculptures as “beacons of optimism and invention”, reflecting the bold, creative persona of the Gold Coast. Over time, the living artworks will allow complex marine flora and fauna communities to take centre stage, creating an underwater ‘hanging garden’ for divers to discover and explore. 

Ecosystem Engineering for a thriving Blue Economy

The Wonder Reef is built on Subcon’s proven expertise in engineering with nature to build thriving reef ecosystems. Combining engineering, marine biology, material science, art and economics, Subcon has delivered dozens of successful reef projects. 

Through the deployment of carefully engineered reef structures at an industrial scale, we have experimented and refined our morphology to maximise the benefits provided by engineered reefs to the marine environment. In turn, this enables ocean communities to thrive in harmony – including diverse marine flora and fauna, dive visitors, marine scientists, research institutions and local economies.  

You can read more about Subcon’s Ecosystem Engineering solutions here.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Gold Coast Dive Attraction will include a purpose-built reef, moorings and navigational markers to:

  • complement the Gold Coast’s visitor appeal, adding an iconic and innovative nature-based tourism experience
  • create a unique and interesting dive experience encouraging repeat visitation
  • attract and sustain a wide variety of marine life
  • deliver a dive experience for a range of dive certification levels
  • deliver a new ‘wow’ factor eco-tourism experience that contributes positively to the Gold Coast as a world-class tourism destination
  • offer an element of ‘fun’ interaction that incorporates a distinctly Gold Coast experience that the diver can share post-dive trip

Approximately 2.5 kilometres offshore from Philip Park, The Spit, at a depth of 30 metres AHD.

The City of Gold Coast and the Queensland State Government are the key stakeholders behind Wonder Reef, in collaboration with the artist and designer Daniel Templeman who designed the living sculptures.

Key suppliers include: 

The reef structures are nearing fabrication completion in Maryborough and Brisbane. The dive attraction is on schedule for deployment by the end of June 2021, subject to weather conditions.

Installation will be followed by 6 to 8 months of monitoring and testing to meet approvals and ensure safety. This period will also allow marine life to establish before opening to the public in early 2022.

The dive attraction will inject an estimated $32.8 million into the region’s economy (including investment costs, regional flow on and tourism benefit) during the first 10 years of operation. This will be achieved through the generation of 166,543 new overnight visitors to the Gold Coast with the specific intention of diving and/or snorkelling. These visitors will generate an additional 133,940 visitor nights that would not otherwise exist.

Additionally, the investment cost, regional value-added and tourism expenditure will support 80.8 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs by year 10. The dive attraction project will generate an estimated 18.3 construction FTE’s during the two-year construction period.

The foundational pyramid structures are made with steel frames and a specially formulated  Wagners Earth Friendly Concrete applied. The large-scale floating flute sculptures are constructed from steel and tethered to the bases. Following installation, coral outplanting will be applied to start the reef off before nature will take its course to create a thriving ecosystem of marine flora and fauna communities around the living sculptures.