Aquatic events

Here you can access information on what is an aquatic event and how you can apply for an aquatic event.

  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.

  Aquatic event information

What is an aquatic event?

An aquatic event is any form of on-water race or display (for example; swimming races, yachting regattas, water-skiing competitions, sailing events, power boat racing and boating displays) which may affect the normal navigation of vessels on a waterway.

Most aquatic events require formal approval from the Department of Transport (DoT) Marine Safety under Regulation 51C of the Navigable Waters Regulations 1958.

Individuals or organisations proposing to hold an aquatic event should apply to the DoT for approval.

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

Examples of aquatic events that require DoT approval would include;

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

Examples of aquatic events that do not require formal approval;

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

Steps to applying 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. You should consider safety of competitors, spectators and non-spectator public. Remember, aquatic events are often held in areas open to other vessels and aquatic users and they should be considered in any management plans for conducting an aquatic event. This will need to be submitted as part of your application.

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 and any key locations relevant to the event such as first aid stations or locations of rescue crews. The map should provide sufficient information to assist the Department assessing the impact the event will have on the waterway.

This will need to be submitted as part of your application.

Step 3 Apply to hold the event

Along with copies of your Safety Management Plan, Risk Assessment and event map you will need to complete an application to hold an aquatic event form.

All applications to hold an aquatic event should be completed in full and submitted a minimum of 6 weeks prior to the event being held.

Step 4 Assessment of aquatic event

After submitting a completed application to hold an aquatic event form, safety management plan, risk assessment and event map your application will be reviewed by the local office from the region the event is to be held.

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 0439 477 424.

  Classification of aquatic events

Depending on the significance of the event taking place, each event may be categorised into either a major or minor event.

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

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

Examples may include:

Major events

  • Yachting regattas (national/international)
  • Power boat racing
  • Water skiing/slalom competitions
  • PWC racing
  • Swimming competitions (ocean crossings)
  • Windsurfing, kite and sailboard competitions (national/international) 

Minor events

  • 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

The process for applying for an aquatic event includes submitting a 'Safety Management Plan' and 'Risk Register', relating to the event in accordance with AS/NZS ISO 31000:2018 (Risk Management: Principals and Guidelines).

A Safety Management Plan (SMP) assists the event organisers in developing a systematic approach to managing safety, prior to and during the event. A SMP outlines organisational structure, reporting, accountabilities, policies and procedures, which may be tailored to the size and complexity of your event.

To assist in providing a SMP, please refer to the below template.

Remember, the SMP should be commensurate with the event type, scale and associated risks. Also, if you need assistance to develop your SMP, you may choose to employ the services of an independent third party.

Aquatic event risk assessment

The risk register forms part of the safety management plan where event activities are considered in order of their inherent risk and how that risk can be reduced through certain controls to where it is considered acceptable.

Risk management is to be conducted in accordance with the principles outlined in AS/NZS ISO 31000:2018 (Risk Management: Principles and Guidelines), which stipulates that 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 through the use of a risk register that identifies the risks involved in an activity and the key controls which need to be put in place before the activity is undertaken 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.

Residual risk levels should ideally be between medium and low as described below;

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

Where any Residual Risks are rated as High or above, further consideration of controls is required, or alternatively it may be better not to hold the event in its proposed form. The Department of Transport (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

All applications for aquatic events must be accompanied by a detailed map or chart of the water area where the event is taking place. This must include details such as start / finish lines, staging areas, course route and direction, course markers, landmarks, street names etc. If the event is 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 the Department of Transport to assess your event

Remember, the assessing office will require a clear image of how and where your event is planned to be conducted so that they may determine the suitability of the location and any impact on other aquatic users.

AquaMap aquatic event map builder

AquaMap is a computer aided web map application to help you to draw your aquatic event area. Upon completing the sketch, a copy of the map in pdf must be emailed to your Aquatic Events Manager at the Department of Transport.

Once completed, attach your map to your application and Email to your Aquatic Events Manager.

Email your aquatic events submission and the map to

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

If you conduct an aquatic event and need to apply for a temporary exemption from the legislation for the event to take place, or require an area of closed waters to safely conduct your event, please refer to the information below.


All marine safety legislation requirements (rules) are designed to provide for the safe operation of a wide range of boating and other on-water activities. If you are organising an event whereby a relaxation of these rules is required for the event to take place, you will require a temporary exemption to be approved, for the event to proceed.

An example of when an exemption may be applicable may include;

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

When applying for an exemption from the legislative provisions the applicant must demonstrate to the Department 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 steps out how the safety of competitors and public will be achieved.

Please note: Full consideration should be given as to how an event can be conducted within the current legislation or rules prior to applying for any exemption.

Closed waters (exclusion zones)

A closed water area or exclusion zone is a form of control measure that can help keep other persons and vessels away from a high-risk area identified in relation to an aquatic event activity.

The Department may grant an exclusion area, for reasons of safety, and close any waters to the navigation of vessels or to a type or class of vessel.

When applying for a closed waters area you must demonstrate 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 steps out how the safety of competitors and public will be achieved.

Please note: Due to publication requirements of a formal closure notice fees may apply if your application to close waters is successful.

How to apply

Please complete the necessary applications and submit an email within 6 weeks of the event taking place.

  Aquatic event forms and templates

If you would like to hold an aquatic event, you will need to submit an application form to the Department of Transport, at least 6 weeks prior to the event.

Page last updated: Fri May 12 2023 4:33:28 PM