New calls for NSW Government to axe record licence fees as deadline looms

The boating sector says record high Jet Ski licence fees in NSW will harm the majority of families who do the right thing, while cashed-up hoons will still flout the laws and pay the fines.

The boating sector has today renewed urgent calls for NSW Transport Minister, Jo Haylen, to intervene and ask Maritime to abandon its surprise plan to apply record high licence fees for boats and Jet Skis from 1 July 2024.

The proposal would make Jet Ski licence fees in NSW the highest in the world, at close to $2000 for a 10-year licence, versus $124 for a lifetime licence in Queensland and $45 for an annual licence in Victoria.

Some boaters have also accused the NSW Transport Minister of applying higher fees to waterway users to help pay for the toll-road rebate scheme in NSW that refunds motorists who clock up more than $60 per week in tolls.

Others in the boating sector say higher licence and registration fees will leave families high and dry – and out of the water – while hoons who can afford the fees and the fines will continue to flout the law.

A veteran of the boating and Jet Ski community – speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of upsetting policymakers – told Watercraft Zone:

“These fees will 100 per cent have the opposite effect of what the government is trying to achieve here.

“This will force families and low- to middle-income earners off the water, but what you will be left with is a bunch of cashed-up hoons.

“That is not a water safety solution, if these fee increases go ahead the NSW Government will be the architects of a water safety disaster.

“With higher fees, they are treating everyone poorly. Instead, they should just fine the people who do the wrong thing on the water, just like they do on the roads.

“They should also step up the confiscations of Jet Skis for dangerous or abusive behaviour, if water safety is what they are really worried about here.

“Honestly this decision looks like it has been made by someone who has only looked at this issue on the surface, and doesn’t understand the overwhelming majority of people do the right thing on the water.

“Politicians seem to forget the number of people who own a boat or know someone who owns a boat. One in five people in NSW go boating at some point during the year.

“This decision is full of unfair bias. I see motorcycle riders and scooter riders doing the wrong thing on the road, and yet the government doesn’t try to price them out of existence.”

In a new statement released today, Boating Industry Association spokesperson Neil Patchett said it was misleading for policymakers to dismiss the fee increases when they have risen by up to 88 per cent – well above the current rate of inflation which is 5.9 per cent.

“Transport for NSW already charges the highest fees in the nation for people to go recreational boating,” Mr Patchett said in the media statement.

“Claims (by the NSW Government) that increases are mostly no more than $35 masks the fact that, as an example, a three-year general boat licence will go up by 19 percent. This is more than triple what the (inflation) figure should be and some of the fee increases go as high as 88 per cent.

“Compounding the concern is the lack of appropriate consultation. For the first time in more than 20 years, Transport for NSW has gone against its own policy which is to adjust fees in line with (inflation).

“The new fees will result in millions of dollars in extra revenue from the boating public, made up of every-day Australian families trying to make ends meet in a cost-of-living crisis.”

The Boating Industry Association estimates if the current number of boaters in NSW took up a three-year boat and Jet Ski licence, revenue from these licences alone would climb to $53 million a year.

And, it says, these are just two items on a schedule of 13 fee changes to waterways users.

The Boating Industry Association also says the sharp increase in licence and registration fees could force some boating shops to scale back, not put on new apprentices – or force them to close their doors.

“There are significant concerns coming from industry and public about the ramifications that these record-breaking fee increases will have on businesses and boating,” said Mr Patchett.

“The potential that people will be pushed out of leisure boating is very real. If families are priced out of this form of recreation, it will also put jobs at risk across the boating sector.”

The Boating Industry Association says more than 30,000 people are employed in the sector across Australia, with most of those in NSW.

In its media statement, the boating industry group quoted a young and newly-appointed apprentice marine mechanic working at a business in North-West Sydney called Ethan, as saying:

“I love being a marine mechanic and it is actually quite hard to get an apprenticeship in this area.

“If there is a downturn in the sales of boats and Jet Skis because of the higher fees, then there will be fewer opportunities for boat shops to employ apprentices like me.”

As the deadline for a decision by the NSW Government looms – ahead of the proposed 1 July 2024 fee increases – the Boating Industry Association representative noted:

“There was a time when Transport for NSW put the customer at the centre of everything they did,” said Mr Patchett.

“Now they seem to be putting the customer at the centre of a plan to repair its own budget troubles.”

MORE: How to have your say on higher Jet Ski licence fees 

Fast facts and higher fees: Water torture on the boating community:

  • Almost 1 in 5 NSW households have a boat, Jet Ski, canoe, kayak or similar
  • More than 2 million people go boating in NSW each year
  • There are approximately 218,000 boats registered in NSW
  • There are approximately 20,000 Jet Skis registered in NSW
  • There are approximately 460,000 boat licence holders in NSW
  • There are approximately 90,000 Jet Ski licence holders in NSW
  • More than 90 per cent of registered boats are under 6 metres in length, the majority of which are the humble tinnie, family runabout.

Proposed Jet Ski licence fee increases in NSW from 1 July 2024:

  • 1 year Jet Ski licence: was $210, now $245 (up 17 per cent)
  • 3 year Jet Ski licence: was $460, now $662 (up 44 per cent)
  • 5 year Jet Ski licence: was $720, now $1042 (up 45 per cent)
  • 10 year Jet Ski licence: was $1043, now $1961 (up 88 per cent)

The NSW Jet Ski licence fees compare to $124 for a lifetime licence for a PWC in Queensland, and $45 for a one-year licence for a PWC in Victoria.

Proposed boat licence fee increases in NSW from 1 July 2024:

  • 1 year Boat licence: was $69, now $77 (up 12 per cent)
  • 3 year Boat licence: was $185, now $220 (up 19 per cent)
  • 5 year Boat licence: was $292, now $351 (up 20 per cent)
  • 10 year Boat licence: was $521, now $679 (up 30 per cent)

Jet Ski rider case studies:

Case study one:

Jon Hunt, Hunts Marine, Southern Sydney, is a third-generation boater and small business owner in southern Sydney. Jon runs a family-owned marine business that has been operating for more than 75 years.

“There is a perception that boating is reserved for the rich, but the vast majority of registered boats are under 6 metres, and that means the popular ‘tinnie’ (small aluminium boat with an outboard), family runabouts and trailer fishing boats.

“These are everyday Australians, hard-working people, raising families and managing household budgets on the kitchen table, who enjoy time on the water with family and friends.”

Case study two:

Craig, a dad in western Sydney with a second-hand, decade-old Jet Ski. To spend quality time with his young family, Craig just wants to take his kids out a couple of times a year. He says these proposed licence and registration fee increases will price him out of the sport.

“I’ve been riding a Jet Ski for years and want my kids to enjoy this sport, too. But these new fees will price me and my family out of our favourite hobby, and I don’t think boating should just be for rich people.

“I ride safely and responsibly, I’ve done nothing wrong, so why is the government doing this? This will push a lot of people out of the sport.”

Case study three:

Corinne, who works in the aviation sector, has been riding a Jet Ski for years. These new fees are forcing her to now reconsider her hobby because the proposed Jet Ski fees in NSW will be the highest in the world.

“Please don’t punish the majority of Jet Ski riders and boaties because of the few people who give the sport a bad name. I pride myself on riding safely and love how easy and enjoyable Jet Skis are to ride. But these new fees are just unfair and have come out of nowhere.” 

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