Horseshoe Bay Site Management Arrangements

1. Site Description

Magnetic Island is located offshore Townsville. The island currently has a permanent resident population of approximately 3000 and is a popular destination for tourism and recreation activities. Horseshoe Bay (the Bay) is the largest bay on the northern side of the island. The northerly aspect of the Bay shelters it from south easterly winds making it a popular anchorage for commercial and recreational users.

2.  Objectives

These site management arrangements focus on the location of buoy moorings. Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ), the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) have been involved in developing these site management arrangements.  The need for site-specific management was triggered by the receipt of mooring applications and a number of installed, unpermitted/unauthorised buoy moorings in the Bay.

3.  Conservation, Cultural and Heritage Values

In managing the Bay it is recognised that the sheltered waters provide a natural, protected boat harbour and popular water sports area. The natural, cultural and scientific values of the Bay were taken into account in addition to current use and vessel safety requirements. Natural and cultural values of the Bay include:

  • Fringing reef in the eastern section
  • Seagrass meadows in areas throughout
  • Fringing mangrove communities
  • Turtles have been recorded nesting in the western section of the Bay
  • The area is considered to be a cultural landscape by the local Wulgurukaba Traditional Owners and contains a number of important cultural sites
  • Several shipwrecks are located within the Bay of which the Norseman (1893) and the Morning Light (1913) are classified under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976. Other wrecks of significance are US Army Barges, Argonaut (1978), Balmunda (1981), and Palmosa.

4. Current Use

Given Magnetic Islands’ proximity to the mainland and the natural amenity of the Bay, it is highly used for both recreational and commercial use. There are a number of uses and features within and adjacent to the Bay. The Bay is used for:

  • Tourist accommodation, holiday houses, backpackers and campgrounds
  • Commercial activities including jet ski hire, watersports, SCUBA diving, swimming, snorkelling, aqua-bikes, catamaran hire, small boat hire and horse riding along the beach and intertidal area
  • Protected anchoring in south-easterly winds
  • Fishing, crabbing, wreck diving, snorkelling, boating, swimming, watersports and beach based activities
  • Research. A a number of research permits are held by James Cook University to conduct research in White Lady Bay, a small embayment in the north eastern corner of Horseshoe Bay.

A small residential community is adjacent to the Bay and includes public toilets, picnic tables, boat ramp, stinger enclosure, restaurants and shops.  Domestic animals are allowed on the adjacent beach.

An Activities Plan defines the major use pattern and the location of facilities in the Bay.

5. Management Strategies

5.1 Current Management

  • The Bay is zoned Habitat Protection (Dark Blue) Zone under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003 and the Great Barrier Reef Coastal Marine Park Zoning Plan 2004. Construction or operation of mooring facilities are consistent with the objectives of this zone and require written permission.
  • The conduct of commercial jet ski operations in the Bay is managed according to the GBRMPA Guidelines for the Management of Commercial Jet Ski Operations around Magnetic Island. The guidelines require that commercial jet ski activities are conducted east of Endeavour Creek in the Bay.
  • The Bay is included in Cleveland Bay – Magnetic Island Species Conservation (Dugong Protection) Special Management Area. The Special Management Area complements State Dugong Protection Area legislation by regulating netting and bait netting in the area.
  • The Bay is included within the boundary limit of the Port of Townsville.

5.2 Site Management Arrangements

5.2.1 Mooring Area

Moorings are permitted within a designated Mooring Area in the Bay, as depicted in the Activities Plan. The corner coordinates of the Mooring Area are:

19o  06.8238’S 146 o 51.6204’E

19 o 06.7750’S 146 o 51.6910’E

19 o 06.6822’S 146 o 51.6270’E

19 o 06.7310’S 146 o 51.5564’E


Consideration may be given to constructing or operating mooring facilities outside this area if special circumstances can be demonstrated.

The Mooring Area was jointly selected by MSQ, QPWS and the GBRMPA. In selecting this site consideration was given to marine safety requirements, natural, cultural and scientific values, current use and access for other users. Additionally, selection of the area took into account the following:

The Mooring Area was jointly selected by MSQ, QPWS and the GBRMPA. In selecting this site consideration was given to marine safety requirements, natural, cultural and scientific values, current use and access for other users. Additionally, selection of the area took into account the following:

  • Water depth: the southern boundary was based on the 2m depth contour at low tide to allow sufficient water for moored vessels.
  • Reducing displacement of anchoring in the Bay: the extent of the western boundary was kept to a minimum to allow sufficient room for vessels to anchor.
  • Location of moorings: prior to the establishment of the Mooring Area, moorings were distributed to the south east corner of the Bay. The size of the Moorings Area was based on the previous level of mooring use in the Bay. As moorings were an accepted use of the Bay no public consultation was conducted.
  • Positioning of moorings area: to avoid disruption to vessel navigation and use of boat ramp facilities.

5.2.2 Future Applicants

The Mooring Area provides for 20 moorings. In order to install a mooring, a joint Marine Parks permit from the GBRMPA and QPWS and a buoy mooring approval from MSQ are required.

Marine Parks permit applications received for moorings in the Bay are assessed according to existing permit processes, on a ‘first come first served’ basis in consultation with MSQ. Individual permits are assessed on a case by case basis and decisions made are subject to review and appeal. The permitting of moorings in the Bay is carried out in accordance with the GBRMPA Policy on Moorings in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. This Policy explains the circumstances for which privately owned moorings may be permitted in the Marine Park. Future increase in the size of the mooring area in the Bay may require a formal public consultation process.

Once the Mooring Area has reached full capacity, MSQ will maintain a waiting list in the order in which applications are received. When a position in the Mooring Area becomes available, MSQ will allocate it to the first appropriate boat on the list. The applicant may then apply to the GBRMPA for a Marine Parks permit.

The effectiveness of the Mooring Area will be monitored and if there is sufficient demand, the capacity of the grid will be reviewed in consultation with relevant government agencies1 and the community and may be increased if appropriate.

6. Community Engagement

The GBRMPA encourages the community to become involved in monitoring in the Bay and providing advice on the effectiveness of the site management arrangements.

The finalised site management arrangements for moorings in the Bay have been placed on the GBRMPA website. The site management arrangements will be made available to permittees and applications during the application and assessment process. The Townsville Local Marine Advisory Committee and Tourism and Recreation Reef Advisory Committee have been informed of updates to the site management arrangements for this site.

If you would like more information or wish to provide comment, please contact the Authority on (07) 4750 0700 or email info@gbrmpa.gov.au, marked attention Manager, Planning.

1 GBRMPA, QPWS, MSQ and the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (DPI &F)

Updated October 2007