Noise rules on NSW waterways

When using a vessel, you must not make noise that could offend, disturb or be harmful to others. Here's how to stick to the rules.

Offensive noise

You must not make any noise that could offend, disturb or be harmful to someone outside your vessel. This could be noise made by your engine or by people or music on board.

You must not modify the engine noise control equipment on your boat or personal watercraft (PWC).

Noise can be disruptive – not only because of its volume, but also because of the type of noise it is. Always consider how your activities affect other people on the water, on the shore and local residents.

Even a relatively quiet vessel may offend others if it's early in the morning or if you stay too long in the same area.

Whether a noise is offensive depends on how a 'reasonable person' would react. To work out whether the noise from your vessel's engine may be offensive, consider:

  • character of the noise – for example, tone, impulse (sharp sounds) and fluctuation
  • noise quality – for example, whether it could be considered annoying
  • volume – how loud it is and whether it's louder than background noise
  • the effect the noise has on activities around you
  • time of day – noise travels further when it's calm and quiet
  • how far you are from the shore
  • how many people are nearby
  • whether you're near a residential area
  • which direction the wind is blowing – noise can travel further with the wind.

Noise can also disturb wildlife, especially waterbirds and other animals – see Protecting marine life.

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