Frequently asked questions
These are commonly asked questions about using houseboats on NSW waterways.
A houseboat is a vessel, floating object, structure or other apparatus (eg pontoon) that provides accommodation (whether comprised of a house-like structure or not) that is not permanently attached to the shore, and may be propelled by mechanical power, auxiliary vessel or any other mechanism to assist movement.
The NSW Houseboat Access Policy (the Policy) provides a statewide waterway management strategy for houseboat activities (including operation, access and or mooring) in NSW waters. It considers demand for access and looks at how evolving aquatic activities may alter waterway use over time.
The Policy consolidates existing localised houseboat arrangements into a framework with consistent and transparent guidelines for Maritime officers to assess and determine the suitability of houseboat operations, access and or mooring arrangements for existing and proposed houseboat activities across all NSW waterways.
Some waterways will require specific restrictions and or conditions to allow the operation of a houseboat.
The NSW Houseboat Access Policy requires Boating Safety Officers and, at times, the Marine Investigation Unit, to consider the following impacts to assess the suitability of operating a houseboat on a NSW waterway:
- a heightened safety risk
- a navigational hazard
- an avoidable impact on the local environment
- a significant impact on the visual amenity in the waterway
- adverse impact on Maritime’s capability to safely and fairly regulate NSW waterways across the State; and or
- contravention, or likely to cause contravention, of NSW Marine legislation regarding the management of navigable waters.
Submit your Domestic commercial vessel application to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). The Maritime Branch of TfNSW grants recreational vessel registrations.
You may need to lodge a Development Application (DA) to operate a houseboat, particularly for commercial uses, such as a commercial enterprise offering short term on water accommodation. It is important to check with your local council to see whether you need to submit a DA.
If approval is required, you must provide the Maritime Branch in Transport for NSW with proof that the approval has been granted – this will then be used to assist Maritime with a final determination. Contact us on 13 12 36 (option 2) to discuss issues and how to submit the required information.
Without all required approvals from your local council or any other consent authority, it is less likely that the Maritime Branch will support the use of a houseboat on the waterway. Some exceptions may apply if the use and operation is aligned to requirements in relevant legislation and State/Regional/Local Environmental Plans.
As an existing or potential owner or operator of a houseboat, it is your responsibility to know the rules that you must follow. You should be familiar with requirements of marine legislation, the Environmental Assessment and Planning Act 1979 (EP&A Act) the State Environmental Planning Policy (Infrastructure) 2007 (SEPP) as well as relevant State, Regional and or Local Environmental Plans.
These planning instruments help to ensure the use of a houseboat has minimal impact on the surrounding environment. If no relevant plan exists, or a Consent Authority has advised that your activity does not fall under a relevant plan, confirmation from the Authority is required to assist Maritime with a determination.
If you plan on renting out your houseboat you will need to check with the Maritime Branch of Transport for NSW, the relevant local council and Department of Planning, Industry and Environment to make sure you meet all necessary requirements.