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Boating Zone Review

boating zone beach photo

What’s happening?

In late 2016 Parks Victoria sought feedback on proposed improvements to existing boating and swimming zones in Port Phillip and Western Port from beachgoers, swimmers, paddle craft users, vessel operators, local residents, local businesses and the broader community. 

Responding to change

Parks Victoria has a responsibility to periodically assess boating zones to ensure they best reflect a wide variety of recreational pursuits that beach visitors enjoy. The world famous beaches of Port Phillip and Western Port are popular year round and experience periods of intense use over the summer season. Users range from local residents to participants in international events hosted by local clubs.

The popularity of different beach activities is influenced by many factors and change can be driven by shifts in:

  • The number of local residents and visitors using an area - e.g. higher density housing.
  • Better access and transport - e.g. East Link and Peninsula Link.
  • New recreation opportunities and associated technologies - e.g. popularity of stand up paddleboards.
  • Beach and shore profiles - e.g. changes due to extreme weather in winter 2016.
  • Shoreline facilities improvements - e.g. improvements to Patterson River boat ramps. 

Improvement process 2016-17

Individual boating zone users, informal user groups, foreshore land managers and Victorian recreation peak bodies have suggested improvements to existing boating zones.

To propose or amend boating zone rules Parks Victoria works with Maritime Safety Victoria (MSV), the state-wide regulator. Steps include:

  • A newspaper public notice of the proposal to request the making of the rule.
  • Four weeks of public consultation.
  • Consideration and summary of submissions received during consultation.
  • A request to MSV to make a new waterway rule, explaining how the rule will minimise risks, any alternative ways to address the matter and expected benefits and costs of the proposed rule. 

What is proposed?

Parks Victoria is seeking feedback on the following proposed changes.

1. Allow human-powered paddle craft to use Vessels Prohibited (Swimming Only) zones

Human-powered paddle craft, including stand up paddleboards (SUPs), sit on kayaks, canoes, small dinghies, and surf skis are currently prohibited in Vessels Prohibited (Swimming Only) zones.

Reasons for proposed change: 

  • The popularity and availability of paddle craft has increased significantly since 2009.
  • Many paddle craft users seek the safety local lifesaving clubs and locations away from powered vessels and sailing vessels.
  • Other paddle craft users enjoy longer journeys along the shore and feel unsafe going around the zone 200 or 500m from shore.
  • Powered vessels and sailing boats operate at higher speeds outside the boating zones but must slow to 5 knots within 50m of another vessel including paddle craft.
  • Generally paddle craft have right of way over powered vessels and sailing craft. 

2. Rename existing Kiteboarding zones to Shared Windsports zones

Signs, legislation and other published information refer to these popular zones in an inconsistent fashion that does not properly recognise regular use by windsurfers. Shared Windsports is inclusive of kiteboarding and windsurfing and better informs other beach uses that both activities are permitted in the zone. 

Reasons for proposed change: 

  • During the 2009 review kiteboarding was gaining popularity rapidly and zones were provided to allow kiteboarders to travel at more than 5 knots close to shore provided they were more than 50m from a swimmer.
  • Generally beach conditions for swimming deteriorate (strong cross or onshore winds) as kiteboarding and windsurfing conditions improve. This ‘natural’ separation has worked well.
  • Kiteboarders and windsurfers share the zones provided and different sailing angles enable both groups to use the zone safety and simultaneously.
  • Kiteboarding Victoria and Windsurfing Victoria support the renaming of zones.

3. Changes to Vessels Prohibited (Swimming Only) zones, Kiteboarding (Shared Windsports) zones and 5 Knot Within 200m of the Shore zones at Elwood, Brighton and Hampton

Windsurfing and kiteboarding are popular at these sites when winds are stronger, and are cross or onshore. Generally, use by swimmers decreases in such conditions.

Alterations to existing boundaries of zones in the area are expected to improve safety for shared windsports enthusiasts and better enable them to stay clear of Vessels Prohibited (Swimming Only) Zones.

Location overview map (PDF, 500KB)
Brighton - map of proposed zone changes (PDF, 3.2MB)
Elwood - map of proposed zone changes (PDF, 2.8MB)
Hampton - map of proposed zone changes (PDF, 3.3MB)

4. Addition to Vessels Prohibited (Swimming Only) zones and 5 Knot Within 200m of the Shore zones

Additions to the Vessels Prohibited (Swimming Only) Zones are suggested to better align with beach access, local parking and nearby parks. 

Vessels Prohibited (Swimming Only) Zones remain very popular and the proposed additions will provide more opportunities for safer swimming away from sailing and powered vessels. These zones are generally located near good visitor access and often adjacent to a local surf lifesaving club.

Location overview map (PDF, 500KB)
Aspendale (Coleman Road) - map of proposed additions (PDF, 2.9 MB)
Aspendale (Gnotuk Avenue) - map of proposed additions (PDF, 3.2MB)
Bonbeach and Chelsea - map of proposed additions (PDF, 3.3MB)
Carrum - map of proposed additions (PDF, 3.2MB)
Point Leo - map of proposed additions (PDF, 2.2MB)
Portarlington Harbour - map of proposed additions (PDF, 2.1MB)

5. Retain existing Personal Water Craft Prohibited zones

Personal Water Craft Prohibited zones are in place to the north and south of Patterson River at Carrum in Port Phillip and at Shoreham in Western Port. The 2009 BECA report detailed replacing these zones with a combination of Vessels Prohibited (Swimming Only) and 5 Knot Within 200m of the Shore zones.

To date the zones recommended in the BECA report, and agreed in principle by Maritime Safety Victoria (MSV), have not been implemented. Local community expectations and use in the area by PWC operators reflects the current arrangements.

Parks Victoria seeks feedback on maintaining the current approach and not implementing the BECA recommendations.

Patterson River - map of existing PWC zones (PDF, 3.2MB)
Shoreham - map of existing PWC zones (PDF, 2.4MB)

Additional documents

Boating zone review fact sheet (PDF, 148KB)


Parks Victoria is the local port manager of Port Phillip, Western Port and Port Campbell and responsible for making sure port operations are safe, efficient and effective. Boating zones are used to improve safety for swimmers and vessel operators in the local port.

In 2009 Parks Victoria completed a comprehensive two year review of all boating and swimming zones across Port Phillip and Western Port to determine what zone types were required in each local area around Port Phillip and Western Port to allow safe access and use of the coast and waterways. The review utilised community consultation, a standard set of zones, and criteria for boating zones. The review was detailed in the Parks Victoria Boating Zones Review Report delivered by BECA in 2009.

Parks Victoria has worked in partnership with Maritime Safety Victoria and in consultation with the local community to apply these zones in five stages across Port Phillip and Western Port. Four of the five stages have now been delivered. 

See the main Boating and swimming zones page for more information.


Thank you to everyone who provided feedback. The public consultation period has now ended. 

An update, including a summary of the feedback received, is now available.

Boating Zone Review feedback summary (PDF, 260KB) 

To keep informed about the review please send your contact details to

Next steps

Parks Victoria will:

  • Use the issues raised and commentry to ensure that a risk analysis of each of the changes is thorough, informed and reflective of local uses and conditions
  • Develop preferred options that provide the best outcomes for the wide range of beach users and vessel operators
  • Liaise with Maritime Safety Victoria (the Victorian Transport Regulator) to ensure that the preferred options are consistent with statewide management of vessels
  • Confer with local government to ensure that the preferred options do not impede local planning, beach access and beach uses anticipated by councils
  • Where necessary and appropriate, consult stakeholder representative groups such as Life Saving Victoria, local lifesaving clubs, boating clubs, Windsurfing Victoria and Kiteboarding Victoria to check that the preferred options will improve safety and compliance.
  • Finally a set of draft rules will be formally provided to Maritime Safety Victoria for consideration. The submission will explain how the rule will minimise risks, any alternative ways to address the matter and the expected benefits and costs of the proposed rule. Maritime Safety Victoria will then consuider if the rule will be made.
  • New rules will be described on Parks Victoria’s website in the Bays and Waterways section.