NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet

12/24/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/23/2023 22:49

Stay water safe as summer celebrations kick off

Stay water safe as summer celebrations kick off

Published:24 December 2023

Released by:Minister for Transport

With NSW expecting its hottest summer in four years, our waterways will be busier than ever as boats, jet skis, swimmers, divers and kayakers and paddleboarders share limited space at the most popular spots to cool off.

Data from AUSPLAY shows more than 129,000 people are involved in kayaking and canoeing in NSW, more than any other state or territory in Australia.

Tragically, there have been 10 kayak fatalities in the last five years in our state and 35 kayaking incidents. People aged over 65 are over-represented in kayaking fatalities, making up 40% of total deaths over that time.

Social paddling is on the rise, with Sydney Harbour Kayaks, one of Australia's largest kayak and surf ski centres, reporting their kayak tour bookings have tripled in the last year.

The advice from NSW Maritime for anyone picking up a paddle for the first time, or if you haven't done it in a while, is to pay attention to the weather, paddle in groups, and bring a waterproof marine radio or mobile phone in a waterproof bag. If paddling in Sydney Harbour, kayakers are advised to stay close to the shore, well away from ferries and busy vessel thoroughfares.

NSW Maritime expects thousands of riders will be out over the summer months on Personal Watercraft (PWC) or jetskis on coastal and inland waterways. The number of PWC licenses has soared by 36% in the last three years to more than 89,000, with Gen Z the fastest growing demographic among riders.

Tragically, in NSW there have been four jet ski fatalities in the last five years and 58 incidents. The top jetski and PWC offences for 2023 have been for licence and registration breaches, followed closely by speeding and irregular riding - such as doing donut manoeuvres too close to the shore and swimmers.

For more information on waterways safety and rules for your vessel

For more information about major summer events on Sydney Harbour including exclusion zone maps and times.

Transport Minister Jo Haylen said:

"Holidaymakers are heading up and down the coast this summer to enjoy some on-water fun. Whether heading out on a boat, paddling in a kayak or jumping on a jetski, remember to put safety first and wear a lifejacket.

"It's fantastic to see so many people exploring our beautiful waterways and keeping active this holiday season. A safe and enjoyable experience starts with knowing and sticking to the rules.

"If you're giving someone a paddle board or kayak this Christmas, make sure you include what could be the most important gift - a lifejacket.

"Sydney Harbour is the hub of some of our state's biggest summer celebrations, and being safe on the water is key to making sure this holiday season is a happy one."

Transport for NSW Acting Co-Ordinator General Mark Hutchings said:

"Paddlers and kayakers don't need a licence or registration, but they do need to know the rules. Wear a brightly coloured lifejacket, make sure you're visible at night lit with bright white lights on the front and back and know your physical limits.

"The wash from a passing boat, especially something large like a ferry can be enough to seriously rock or even capsize a smaller vessel like a kayak or canoe so keep your distance and always be aware of your surroundings.

"Riding a jetski irresponsibly can create dangerous conditions for drivers, passengers and anyone else on or in the water so we urge people to think of other waterway users."