Proposed Waterway Rule Changes for the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers

Project status

Have your say on proposed waterway rule changes for the waters of the Yarra River upstream of the port waters of The Port of Melbourne and for the Maribyrnong River upstream of Shepherd Bridge on Footscray Road. 

This project seeks to update the current waterway rules (VOZR) to improve and manage safety. It will also see new educational materials produced with an aim to improve awareness and reinforce safe operation on the rivers.


Parks Victoria is the waterway manager for the Yarra River and Maribyrnong River under the Marine Safety Act 2010 and the Water Industry Act 1994. They are hubs for commercial, community and tourism interests. Various community and stakeholder groups use the waterways, including commercial boat operators, on-water restaurants, sporting clubs and event organisers.

A recommendation from the Lower Yarra River Activity Review 2023 was to undertake a waterway rule change to address safety concerns in this highly activated area. The introduction of hire and drive boats, an increasing number of rowers and higher density housing has meant the user profile has changed across the Lower Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers to include more inexperienced users on the river. 

The impact of this change in usage needs to be addressed to improve safety outcomes on the rivers. In 2019, Safe Transport Victoria (previously Maritime Safety Victoria) led the development of proposed Yarra River waterways rule changes. The impact of COVID-19 meant that these changes were not formalised at the time. Parks Victoria is now resuming the waterways rule change project. In consultation with Safe Transport Victoria, Parks Victoria has modified the 2019 proposed rule changes to ensure they are addressing current safety and management issues, along with creating consistency across both rivers.

Project timeline 

Public consultation will be open from 4 January to 11 February 2024. The rule changes will be formally recognised via Government Gazette by Safe Transport Victoria who are the Safety Director and who will consider the application and make a determination regarding weather the rules will be implemented/changed or not.  

The Proposed Waterway Rule changes 2024

The Proposal Explained 

Overview of the proposed waterway rules are as follows:

Allocation of moorings and berths: 
The current waterway rules (VOZR) listed under item 3.3 Prohibition of Specified Activities for the purposes of Clause 12, for the Yarra have bee updated to include anchoring as a prohibited activity and removal of the current berthing table, as it is outdated and does not allow for changes to berthing locations or restrictions. Regulations to the Maribyrnong River have also been changed to align with this.

Exclusive use and special purpose areas for the purposes of Clause 13:
Parks Victoria have removed the section where a light in accordance with Rule 25 of the International Rules for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1972 is appropriate. This Rule 25 allows for a vessel under oars to exhibit the lights prescribed in this Rule for sailing vessels, but if they do not, they shall have ready at hand an electric torch or lighted lantern showing a white light which shall be exhibited in sufficient time to prevent a collision. With the increase in users on the river Parks Victoria want the safest operating model to apply to minimise risk, in this case ensuring vessels are always displaying lights takes a proactive rather than a reactive role to avoid a collision.

Speed limit for vessels without an engine used for propulsion - 12-month trial period:
Vessels without an engine used for propulsion along with accompanying coach vessels will be permitted to operate at a speed not exceeding 8 knots, when engaged in formal training. This is an increase for this activity from the current 5 knots regulation for 12 months.

Operating during flood events:
In response to climate change and the ever-increasing flooding events Parks Victoria have included a flood regulation, with the aim to minimise risk to all river users if vessels are not safe to operate within flood water conditions.

Transiting bridges:
Vessels travelling downstream unofficially have right of way when transiting through bridges, as this is the currently best operating model for safety. But as more and more inexperienced users emerge, formalisation of this rule will allow for education and enforcement, to ensure safe operating by all river users. Overtaking will also not be permitted when transiting bridges, unless in an emergency to achieve the same safety goal.

How to participate

Parks Victoria is inviting feedback on the proposed rule changes for the Yarra River and Maribyrnong Rivers. The purpose of this engagement process is to improve safety on the river and set priorities. User feedback will be considered and will help inform a recommendation to the Safety Director (Safe Transport Victoria).

You can have your say by contacting us by email or call us on 13 1963.

Feel free to submit a written response in a format of your choosing, but as a guide please consider the following questions:

  • Thinking about visitor or user safety, do you have any comments or concerns with the proposed rule changes?
  • Thinking about visitor experience and business, do you have any comments or concerns with the proposed rule changes?


Next steps 

Your feedback will be considered when preparing a recommendation to the Safety Director, Safe Transport Victoria. The Safety Director will consider the application and make a determination regarding whether the rule changes will be made or not.

The outcome of the Safety Director's determination regarding the requested rule change will be made or not, will be published on the State Transport website. The outcome will also be published on this project page and will be listed on the Notice to River Users.

Participants who have contributed on this matter and provided contact details will be notified of the Decision by email from Parks Victoria. There is no guide to timing for the decision-making process.


Is this all that Parks Victoria are working on in this space?

Parks Victoria is working on accompanying supporting educational documentation including:

  • a Code of Conduct for operating on the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers as well as in the Port of Melbourne. This Code of Conduct will aim to provide further clarity as to how to comply with these rules and operate in a manner which constitutes best practice in terms of safety and outline expectations when interacting with other river users.
  • Updating the recreational boating on the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers guide, (Boating Guide).
How will the 12-month Speed limit for vessels without an engine used for propulsion trial period work?
We will be undertaking a trial prior to any permanent rule changes to ensure the speed increase will not pose an increased safety risk. Over the next 12-months Parks Victoria in collaboration with Safe Transport Victoria will directly communicate with Rowing Victoria and our commercial operators, monitor changes in reportable marine incidents and run direct compliance activities associated with speed to ensure we are making an informed decision prior to cementing any permanent changes to speed limits. At the conclusion of the 12 months Parks Victoria will write a letter to Safe Transport Victoria requesting the rule change to be implemented or removed depending on the findings.


What if I have another alternative option?

All reasonable options will be considered. You can outline the alternatives in an email to


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