A vast amount of research into autonomous underwater navigation has, and is, being conducted around the world. However, typical research and commercial platforms have limited autonomy and are generally unable to navigate efficiently within coral reef environments without tethers and significant external infrastructure. This paper outlines the development and presents experimental results into the performance evaluation of a new robotic vehicle for underwater monitoring and surveying in highly unstructured environments. The hybrid AUV design developed by the CSIRO robotic reef monitoring team realises a compromise between endurance, manoeuvrability and functionality. The vehicle represents a new era in AUV design specifically focused at providing a truly lowcost research capability that will progress environmental monitoring through unaided navigation, cooperative robotics, sensor network distribution and data harvesting.