Controlled activities

Healthy, productive watercourses and waterfront land are vital to the community and environment.

Some types of activities on waterfront land can cause negative impacts, such as altering water flow or water quality, destabilising bed and banks, causing erosion, disturbing vegetation and wildlife habitats, and affecting environmental connectivity and diversity.

What is a controlled activity?

Controlled activities are certain types of activities which are

  • carried out on waterfront land, and
  • defined as a controlled activity in the Water Management Act 2000.

Waterfront land’ means the bed of any river, lake or estuary, and the land within 40 metres of the river banks, lake shore or estuary mean high water mark.

Waterfront land

Controlled activity’ means:

  • erection of a building
  • carrying out a work
  • removing material from waterfront land, such as vegetation or extractive material
  • depositing material on waterfront land, such as extractive material
  • carrying out an activity which affects the quantity or flow of water in a water source.

Examples of controlled activities include:

  • modifications to a watercourse, such as erosion control works and channel realignment
  • construction of bed control structures
  • construction of watercourse crossings such as bridges, causeways and bed level crossings, and ancillary works such as roads
  • construction of stormwater outlets and spillways
  • construction of boat ramps and sea walls
  • laying pipes and cables
  • sand and gravel extraction.

Controlled activity approvals

A controlled activity approval is required to authorise the carrying out of a controlled activity.

The purpose of an approval is to ensure that controlled activities are carried out in a way which avoids or minimises negative impacts on waterfront land and other water users.

Regulating controlled activities protects waterfront land and its important natural functions whilst supporting appropriate private development and community infrastructure.

Are there exemptions?

You do not need a controlled activity approval if an exemption applies, such as:

  • for major projects which are state significant development or state significant infrastructure
  • in certain circumstances specified in the regulations, for example:
    • activities carried out by public authorities
    • activities carried out by network operators in certain circumstances
    • certain types of activities to enable a person to take water under their domestic and stock rights, such as installing a water pump and water pipe
    • constructing and using a harvestable rights dam
    • activities relating to a residential dwelling in certain circumstances.

For more information, see fact sheet: Controlled activity approval exemptions ((PDF 203.8 KB)).

One of the controlled activity exemptions in clause 36 of Schedule 4 of the Regulation only applies within certain waterfront land shown in maps which are published on the department’s website. These maps are published below.

How do I apply for an approval?

For information, go to Approval applications & fees.

Guidelines for controlled activities

Our department has published guidelines on certain types of controlled activities and the protection of waterfront land.

The NSW Natural Resources Access Regulator is responsible for compliance and enforcement of NSW water law including laws about controlled activities.

For information, go to Compliance.