Registration fees for Jet Skis and personal watercraft are six times more expensive than for boats in South Australia, and more than triple the cost of registering a boat in NSW – an extensive study by Watercraft Zone has found.
Meanwhile, most other jurisdictions across Australia do not discriminate between the types of watercraft.
The states of Queensland, Victoria, West Australia and Tasmania charge the same registration fees for Jet Skis and personal watercraft as they do for boats, as the costs are based on vessel length.
The disparity in fees for Jet Skis versus boats in NSW and South Australia has led to accusations of discrimination against a recreational boating segment that has delivered massive financial windfalls to governments via registration and licence revenue amid the recent rapid growth in the sport.
NSW riders of Jet Skis and personal watercraft collectively pay the most in annual registrations given the state has among the most expensive fees and represents the third highest number of PWC licence endorsements nationally.
In NSW, the current annual registration fee as this article was published in June 2021 is $346 – in addition to the most expensive annual licence renewal fees nationally ($192 as this article was published).
Based on the 17,000 Jet Skis and personal watercraft registered in NSW in 2020, riders in the state contributed $5.9 million in annual registration fees – in addition to approximately $13.5 million in revenue from 70,500 annual licence fees.
This means riders of Jet Skis and personal watercraft in NSW contributed almost $20 million in licence and registration fees in 2020 alone.
Riders of Jet Skis and personal watercraft in South Australia pay the highest registration – currently $375 per annum – which is more than six times dearer than a boat of similar length in that state.
However, the number of Jet Skis and personal watercraft sold in South Australia is minuscule compared to Queensland, NSW and Victoria due to South Australia’s cooler climate and smaller population.
Jet Ski and personal watercraft riders get the fairest deal on annual registration fees in Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and West Australia (see table at the bottom of this story).
In those states, the cost of registering a Jet Ski or personal watercraft is the same as it is for a boat of similar length – between $42 and $130, depending on the jurisdiction.
Riders in the Northern Territory do not need to pay for a boating licence or registration, though they must contend with apex predators such as crocodiles, so the sport is not hugely popular there.
The rider licence fees for Jet Skis and personal watercraft also varies dramatically across Australia. The story on those price comparisons based on 2021 data is here. And we have also included the data table below.
A spokesperson for the Boating Industry Association of Australia (BIA) said it is not fair for governments to discriminate against Jet Skis and personal watercraft by charging higher fees.
Many in the Jet Ski and personal watercraft community believe the higher fees imposed by NSW authorities are designed to discourage people from the sport and, given the higher cost compared to regular boating, to make it more difficult for riders of such craft to maintain compliance.
“Personal watercraft and the people who ride them should be treated fairly when governments consider boating regulations,” said Neil Patchett, the spokesperson for the Boating Industry Association.
“They should be managed by regulators as just another type of boat or another type of watercraft,” said Mr Patchett. “The (industry’s) view is that personal watercraft should be treated equitably with other craft. And that includes all elements, regulations, and fee schedules.”
The industry spokesman added: “As with most activities, there’s often a minority who can spoil it for others, and that’s why education and compliance are so important. But disproportionate and excessive fees that make it harder for people to comply are absolutely not the answer.”
How annual Jet Ski and personal watercraft registration fees compare across Australia:
|Australian state or territory||Boat registration fee||Jet Ski and PWC registration fee|
|SA||$18 up to 3 metres, $55 up to 3.5 metres||$375 (Six times boat registration)|
|NSW/ACT||$68 up to 3 metres, $88 up to 4 metres||$346 (More than triple boat registration)|
|QLD||$113 up to 4.5 metres||$113 (Same as boat registration)|
|VIC||$43 up to 4 metres, $90 over 4 metres||$43 (Same as boat registration)|
|WA||$130 up to 5 metres||$130 (Same as boat registration)|
|TAS||$97||$97 (Same as boat registration)|
|NT||No registration required||No registration required|
Source: State and territory governments, June 2021. Prices, durations, and regulations subject to change. Please check with your local authorities for updated information. Costs listed above are rounded.
How Jet Ski and personal watercraft licence fees compare across Australia:
|Australian state or territory||Boat licence fee||Jet Ski and PWC licence fee|
|NSW/ACT 1 year licence||$63||$192 (More than triple boat licence fee)|
|NSW/ACT 3 year licence||$169||$419 (Almost 2.5 times boat licence fee)|
|NSW/ACT 5 year licence||$266||$656 (Almost 2.5 times boat licence fee)|
|NSW/ACT 10 year licence||$475||$951 (Double a boat licence fee)|
|VIC 1 year licence||$37||$42 (14 per cent more than boat licence)|
|VIC 3 year licence||$111||$126 (14 per cent more than boat licence)|
|VIC 5 year licence||$185||$210 (14 per cent more than boat licence)|
|QLD Lifetime licence||$114.90||$114.90 (Same cost as boat licence)|
|SA Lifetime licence||$44||$44 (Same cost as boat licence)|
|WA Lifetime licence||$180-$280 (varies with course provider)||$180-$280 (Same cost as boat licence)|
|TAS 3 year licence||$47.40||$94.80 (Double a boat licence fee)|
|NT||No licence required||No licence required|
Source: State and territory governments, June 2021. Prices, durations, and regulations subject to change. Please check with your local authorities for updated information.
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Photo credit: The image at the top of this story was photographed by Jeff Lakeford and is used here with permission. To see his Top 10 photos from 2020, click here.