The Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Change (DEECA) has introduced new Water (Recreational Area) Regulations 2023 to replace the Model By-Law: Recreational Areas (2012) which sunset in August 2023.
The regulations apply to around 40 of Victoria’s water storages. These water storages are formally determined as Recreational Areas under the Water Act 1989.
DEECA held community consultation on the draft Regulations via Engage Vic from 6 June 2023 to 4 July 2023. A total of 3349 page views, 281 downloads of the exposure draft of the Regulations and 85 submissions were received which helped to inform the final Regulations.
- Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) manages 23 water storages, including lakes, dams and reservoirs, and approximately 100,000 hectares of surrounding land across Victoria’s North East.
- 21 of these storages are Determined Recreational Areas under the Water Act 1989 and provide a range of on and off water activities such as boating, fishing, bushwalking, bird watching, camping, and opportunities for gathering with friends and family.
- The Victorian Government released Water for Victoria in 2016, recognising the recreational and cultural values of water storages and the role they play in supporting the health, wellbeing, and social fabric of regional communities. The regulations aim to:
- Include recreational values in water and waterway planning.
- Help communities understand how to achieve their recreational objectives.
- Support recreation at water storages through infrastructure and better information.
- GMW is making recreational areas more accessible with the installation of all abilities parking, pathways, toilets, showers, and barbeque areas across our managed storages.
- Our aim is to increase enjoyment of the waterways without adversely impacting lake operations, water qualities, environmental and cultural heritage values, or community safety.
- Since 2012 the management and recreational use of Victoria’s water storages have been governed under Model By-Law: Recreational Areas and subsequent by-laws made by Water Corporations including GMW By-law No. 1-2013.
- These were recently replaced by The Water (Recreational Area) Regulations 2023and came into operation on 19 August 2023.
The purpose of water storages across the GMW network is to harvest, store and deliver water to the variety of entitlement holders including irrigation, domestic and stock, environment and urban water supply. GMW’s primary role is to manage water storages to supply water for irrigation, urban, rural, and environmental use.
At all times GMW must ensure that recreational use doesn’t negatively impact public safety, storage operations, water quality or environmental and cultural values.
To learn more about the range of recreational activities permitted at our storages visit GMW Recreation page on the website.
New Water (Recreational Area) Regulations now in effect
The Water (Recreational Area) Regulations 2023 (The Regulations) apply to 40 of Victoria’s water storages that are registered as Determined Recreational Areas under the Water Act 1989 and are managed by water corporations.
The Regulations help protect water quality, cultural heritage, environmental values, and water corporation facilities.
- Some Recreational Areas are important sites of cultural heritage and are of significance to Traditional Owners.
- Recreational Areas perform environmental functions, including providing habitat for plant and animal species.
- These areas are important sites for fire management and catchment protection.
- The role storages may provide for recreation and tourism, with some high visitation sites having significant infrastructure for camping, boating, fishing, picnics, and barbeques.
What has changed at GMW managed storages?
Developed by the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA) and informed by feedback received via Engage Victoria in 2023, the regulations aim to protect, conserve and preserve:
- water quality
- cultural heritage
- flora and fauna, and
- built water corporation facilities.
The regulations continue to support the ongoing safety and enjoyment for recreational users including community, businesses, visitors and the general public at GMW-managed dams, lakes, reservoirs and on land recreation areas.
Since 2012 the management and recreational use of Victoria’s water storages have been governed under Model By-Law: Recreational Areas including GMW By-law No. 1-2013.
Much of the content of the former By-law is retained in The Regulations and continue to provide the framework for GMW to manage recreational activities at these sites.
The regulations provide penalties for prohibited activities such as vandalising water corporation infrastructure, operating boats in a dangerous way, removing vegetation, or disturbing wildlife.
Water (Recreational Area) Regulations 2023
Specific details of changes are outlined in the sections below:
Traditional Owner Rights
The Regulations facilitate and complement existing and future Traditional Owner rights, aspirations, and values for management of Country.
- Relevant sections include:
- Regulation 5 - Application of these Regulations to members of Traditional Owner groups
- Regulation 9 - Traditional Owner rights to be considered in preparing a management plan
Formalising Recreational Management Plans
- The Regulations require Recreational Area Management Plans (RAMPs) be developed by Water Corporations for the storages and recreational areas they manage. GMW has been working with communities and clubs to plan and manage recreational opportunities where appropriate at our storages and surrounding land areas. This change acts to formalise GMW’s existing practice for the Recreational Areas we manage.
- The Regulations formalised that RAMPs must be in place for all storages by August 2025. GMW is working alongside DEECA and other Water Corporations to ensure consistency in the way recreational opportunities at our storages are managed.
- Water Corporations are required to consult with interested parties during the development of management plans, including local community, clubs and associations, recreational user groups and businesses.
- GMW will be out to consult on its draft plans during 2024.
Relevant sections include:
- Part 2 – Management Plans
- Regulation 10 – Consultation for a management plan
- Regulation 11 – Publishing a management plan
- The Regulations have introduced Penalty Infringement Notices (PINs) to strengthen the compliance tools available to Water Corporations to ensure safe and effective management of Recreational Areas.
- This will allow Water Corporations to issue users not following The Regulations with on-the-spot fines.
- Relevant sections:
- Part 11 – Infringements
- Schedule 1 – Infringements
All Recreational users of GMW’s water storage networks should be aware of the following:
- GMW may set aside areas for lighting and maintaining fires and campfires.
- Fires must not to be lit on a day of Total Fire Ban.
- When allowed fires must be;
- kept to less than 1sqm,
- lit in a properly constructed fireplace or trench, and
- lit in an area clear of flammable material.
- Division 2 - Fires in recreational area
- The Regulations allow Water Corporations to manage the types of vessels and set speed restrictions, as well as conditions for refuelling.
- Division 2 – Vessels in recreational areas
- Regulation 86 – Anchoring, berthing or operating vessels in recreational area
- Regulation 89 – Conditions on use of vessel in recreational area
Aircraft, including drones/remotely piloted aircrafts
- The Regulations set the conditions that aircraft may only launch or land an aircraft or remotely piloted aircraft in an area that has been set aside. Water Corporations have the discretion to set aside an area for this.
- Regulation 95 – Use of aircraft in recreational area
Visit Recreational area regulations (water.vic.gov.au) to read the Regulations in full, learn more about the changes and what you need to know before taking to the water.