Late last year, a 10-year plan for managing the Gold Coast waterways was announced. This plan made several key recommendations for our waterways, which includes the construction of floating walkways, the provision of extra boat ramps and a review of current waterway speed limits.

Need to increase current speed limits

Following a lengthy review of Gold Coast boating speed limits, in May 2014, the Gold Coast Waterways Authority released a Speed Limits Review Discussion Paper to the public, with the hope of further identifying whether there was in fact a need to increase current speed limits on our Gold Coast waterways.

Currently, vessels operating on the Gold Coast are required to comply with state-wide limits, which provide:-

A speed limit of 6-knots:-

  • Within 30m of:

o        boats anchored, moored to the shore or aground;

o        a jetty, wharf, pontoon or boat ramp within 30m of people in the water.

  • Within 60m of people in the water when operating a personal watercraft.
  • In boat harbours and marinas.

There are also additional gazetted speed limits, which are applicable to all ships. As all Gold Coast waters are classified as “smooth waters”, vessels are therefore subject to a 40-knot maximum restriction where the 6-knot speed limit does not apply.

Some restrictions are unnecessary

The review of Gold Coast waterway speed limits identified a significant proportion of Gold Coast Waters are subject to the 6-knot maximum prescribed for canals and marinas. It was also identified that there were too many 6-knot zones on the Gold Coast, making our waterways inappropriately restricted as a result.

The Gold Coast Waterways Authority went on to make the following recommendations within their report:-

  • Remove gazetted limits where the intent is reasonably addressed by state-wide provisions.
  • Remove existing 6-knot signs to the maximum practical extent and promote a default 6-knot message.
  • Promote a “drive to the conditions” ethic, focusing on respect and courtesy regarding vessel wash and understanding of state-wide provisions that trigger a 6-knot limit.
  • Raise speed limits to 10-18 knots in certain areas, to allow for water taxis or ferries to operate.
  • Utilise cameras to monitor behaviour and enhance the effectiveness of enforcement resources.

Shortly following release of their review, an online paper and interactive map was then released to allow the community to provide further suggestions and comments about proposed changes to our Gold Coast waterways. This discussion tool was available to users until mid July 2014.

After reviewing community feedback, a number of proposals were then brought forward for further discussion and, last week, approval for a change to speed limits on our waterways was accepted by the Gold Coast Waterways Authority Board. These changes are still subject to approval by the Transport Minister.

If approved, speed changes on Gold Coast waterways will mean that vessels 6.5 metres in length and under will be able to travel up to 25-knots in areas that are currently zoned for 6-knots. Parts of the Nerang and Coomera rivers will also see a reduction in current speed limits, to a maximum of 25-knots rather than 40-knots, unless a ski-boat operator has a skier under tow.

Fines for exceeding speed limits

Current fines for exceeding Gold Coast Waterway speed limits start at $330 and are expected to continue to be heavily enforced, with the Gold Coast Waterway Authority also requesting for radar guns to be purchased for use by Gold Coast Water Police and further CCTV cameras to be installed in problem areas, to assist in identifying offenders.

Results of the Gold Coast waterways speed limit review are expected to be announced by the end of the year.