Aquatic events

Find out how to apply for an aquatic event approval.

An aquatic event is any form of on-water race or display which may affect the normal navigation of vessels on a waterway.

You will need to apply for approval from Department of Transport (DoT) for most aquatic events.

The application process allows the event to be assessed to ensure that all waterway users and legislative requirements are taken into consideration.

Aquatic events that require DoT approval include:

  • Major boating displays (boat shows)
  • Power boat racing
  • Rowing and paddling events
  • Sailing or yachting regattas and events
  • Swimming events (including triathlons)
  • Windsurfing, water-skiing, kite and sailboard competitions.

Aquatic events that do not require DoT approval include:

  • Boating convoys
  • Fishing competitions
  • Minor boating displays (in harbour)
  • Solo swim or swimming training
  • Surfing events.

  Aquatic calendar: Swan and Canning Rivers

Find out about upcoming local events via our aquatic calendar. Events include rowing, sailing, water skiing, canoeing and more.

  How to apply for an aquatic event

Step 1: Assess the risk

Consider all safety implications to holding the event by completing a Safety Management Plan and risk assessment. Consider the safety of competitors, spectators and members of the public.

Remember, aquatic events are often held in areas open to other vessels and aquatic users – make sure to consider them in any event management plans.

Step 2: Map out the event

Develop a map/chart indicating the event course.

The map should include:

  • start and finish points
  • direction of course
  • any key locations relevant to the event, such as first aid stations or locations of rescue crews.

The map should provide sufficient information to assess the impact the event will have on the waterway.

Step 3: Apply to hold the event

Complete and submit an application to hold an aquatic event form (below) and copies of your Safety Management Plan, risk assessment and event map to

You must submit your complete application at least 8 weeks prior to the event being held.

Step 4: Assessment of aquatic event

Your application will be reviewed by the relevant DoT office.

Incomplete applications will be returned prior to any assessment being undertaken.

If your event is approved, you will receive formal notification in writing.

For further information, contact the Aquatic Events Officer on 13 11 56.

  Aquatic event classification

Aquatic events are categorised into either a major or minor event.

Major events

Major aquatic events have the greatest impact on other aquatic users, such as events that involve international, national and state competitions, high speed powered vessels (including personal watercraft) and any event that requires exemption from legislation or closure of waters.

Examples include:

  • yachting regattas (national/international)
  • power boat racing
  • water skiing/slalom competitions
  • personal watercraft racing
  • swimming competitions (ocean crossings)
  • windsurfing, kite and sailboard competitions (national/international.) 

Minor events

Minor events have less impact on other aquatic users, such as events organised by clubs for local members or boating displays.

Examples include:

  • yachting regattas (yacht clubs)
  • stand up paddle boarding events
  • windsurfing, kite and sailboard
  • boat show (boating displays)
  • rowing competitions.

  Aquatic event safety management and risk assessment

Aquatic event Safety Management Plan

You must submit a Safety Management Plan and risk register to apply for aquatic event approval.

A Safety Management Plan helps the event organisers to manage safety, before and during the event.

A Safety Management Plan should outline:

  • organisational structure
  • reporting
  • accountabilities
  • policies and procedures, which may be tailored to the size and complexity of your event.

Your Safety Management Plan should be appropriate for the type, size, complexity of the event and associated risks.

Refer to the Safety Management Plan template below for more information.

If necessary, you can employ an independent third party to help develop your Safety Management Plan.

Aquatic event risk management and register

When planning your aquatic event, risk management should be conducted in accordance with the principles outlined in AS/NZS ISO 31000:2018 (Risk Management: Principles and Guidelines).

Risk management should:

  • be an integral part of organisational processes
  • be based on the best available information
  • be capable of continual improvement and enhancement
  • be dynamic, iterative and responsive to change
  • be part of decision making
  • be systematic and structured
  • be tailorable
  • be transparent and inclusive
  • create value
  • explicitly address uncertainty and assumptions
  • take into account human factors.

Risks are managed using a risk register.

A risk register identifies the risks involved in an activity and the key controls which need to be put in place to reduce those risks to an acceptable level.

The aim is to reduce all residual risks to either a medium or low rating before holding the event.

  • Medium rating: constant vigilance is provided by event officials and staff across these risk areas.
  • Low rating: these risk areas are monitored by event officials and staff.

If any residual risks are rated as high or above, further consideration of controls is required, or it may be better to not hold the event in its proposed form.

DoT will not approve any events where a residual risk remains at very high.

Sample of a risk register

Inherent Risk (What can happen if no controls are put in place) Likelihood Consequence Inherent Risk Level Controls implemented (List of measures to prevent a hazard from occurring) Likelihood (with controls) Consequence (with controls) Residual Risk Level Mitigating Controls (list of measures to reduce the degree of harm if accident occurs)
Example 1 - Skier collision with object 3 (Possible) 4 (Major) 12 (High) Sweep of course prior to event
Ski boat race rules Experienced skippers
Safety briefing - emergencies
3 (Possible) 3 (Moderate) 9 (Medium) Rescue boats
First aid stations
PPE worn by competitors (PDF, helmet, wetsuit etc.)
Example 2 - Spectator or unauthorised person on race course (power boat racing) 4 (Likely) 4 (Major) 16 (Very High) Sweep of race course
Provide spectator areas
Advertising and signage
Course officials / volunteers
Safety briefing - spectators
3 (Possible) 2 (Minor) 6 (Low) Rescue boats
First aid stations

  Aquatic event waterway map/chart

When applying for aquatic event approval, you must submit a detailed map or chart of the water area where the event is taking place.

The map must include details, such as:

  • start / finish lines
  • staging areas
  • course route and direction
  • course markers
  • landmarks
  • street names.

If the event is held over a period of days, provide advice for each day.

You may want to add details such as safety vessel numbers and positions, first aid stations and or any other general information that will assist us to assess your event.

Remember, we need a clear image of how and where your event is planned to be conducted to determine the suitability of the location and any impact on other aquatic users.

AquaMap aquatic event map builder

AquaMap is a web map application to help you to draw your aquatic event area.

Once completed, attach a copy of your map to your application and email to your Aquatic Events Officer at

AquaMap: Aquatic Event map builder


The waterway map/chart

An example of what to provide is shown below.

Aquatic Waterway event sample
Aquatic Waterway event sample

  Temporary exemptions and closed waters requests


Marine safety legislation requirements are designed to provide for the safe operation of a wide range of boating and other on-water activities.

If you are organising an aquatic event that cannot meet all legislative requirements, you will need a temporary exemption for the event to proceed.

An example of when an exemption may be applicable include:

  • Power boat racing event within an area of water that has a current speed restriction in place, or
  • A paddle or sailing race event where the carriage of the full requirement of safety equipment is restrictive or impractical.

To apply for an exemption from the legislative requirements, you will need to submit an Application for Exemption Form (below) that demonstrates:

  • why it is impractical to comply with the legislation, and
  • how the safety of competitors and members of the public will be maintained should an exemption be granted.

All applications should be accompanied by a detailed Safety Management Plan and risk register that explains how the safety of competitors and public will be achieved.

You must submit the application for an exemption at least 8 weeks before the event takes place.

Note: You should consider how your event can be conducted within the current legislation or rules before applying for any exemption.

Closed waters (exclusion zones)

A closed water area or exclusion zone is a control measure that can help keep other people and vessels away from a high-risk area associated with a display or event.

To apply for a closed waters area you must submit an Application to Close Waters Area form (below) that demonstrates:

  • why a closed waters area is required for your event to proceed, and
  • how you will resource the event to manage the water closure area.

All applications should be accompanied by a detailed Safety Management Plan and risk register that explains how the safety of competitors and public will be achieved.

You must submit the application for a closed water area at least 8 weeks before the event takes place.

DoT is required to publish notices of closed waters. If your application to close waters is successful, you will need to pay a publication fee.

Find out more about temporary water closures.

Page last updated: Thu Jul 11 2024 8:44:31 AM