x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Abu Dhabi looks to Gold Coast to preserve beaches

The Department of Municipal Affairs holds a second day of talks with a delegation from the city in Queensland.

ABU DHABI // Australia's Gold Coast is popular with tourists around the world for its year-round sunshine and glorious beaches. Abu Dhabi officials meeting with representatives of the city yesterday were interested in something else, though: how it plans to protect its beachfront from the ravages of mankind. The Department of Municipal Affairs held a second day of talks with a delegation from the city in Queensland, a holiday destination that is struggling to balance expansion with sustainability.

Ahmed Shareef, the municipal department's undersecretary, said they shared concerns about coastline erosion, beach rehabilitation and population encroachment in "fragile areas". Gold Coast is "a city loved for its green, gold and blue - green being its natural environment, gold being its beaches and blue its waterways", he said. "Abu Dhabi shares similar natural advantages and we - seek to maintain them while growing our city in tourism and population."

The Gold Coast delegation offered its expertise in urban planning, coastline protection and beach safety. "We've got an action plan and shorelines management plan for the next 50 years," said Joe McCabe, the deputy chief executive of the Gold Coast City council and head of the delegation. "We need to make sure our beaches are first-class because if they're not, then people will not come back to the city. It's absolutely critical, so we think we've got this expertise we can help Abu Dhabi with."

Gold Coast's top industry is tourism, with more than 10 million visitors annually. Its roughly 50km of beachfront is managed with help from the Griffith Centre for Coastal Management, associated with Griffith University. Mr McCabe suggested that researchers with the local university might even assist Abu Dhabi with its beaches. As an example of the kind of action taken in Gold Coast, he noted the construction of boulder walls along the coastline to protect the beach from erosion.

The Australian delegation, he said, wanted to observe how Abu Dhabi was managing its planning. Gold Coast is growing at a rate of about four per cent a year. "To the UAE, that's probably not a great pace. It's mind-blowing here," Mr McCabe said. "We've got a few high-rises and multi-storey commercial apartments going up now, so that integration between development and environment is very important."

"We're looking at spreading our wings with Abu Dhabi and learning from them," Mr McCabe said. "We're both coastal cities facing similar challenges and I think we need to best utilise that environment not just for the benefit of tourists, but also the residents." mkwong@thenational.ae