Time to wave goodbye to motorsports on Lake Burley Griffin

Tim Gavel 9 February 2021 8
Dragon boat

Dragons boaters on Lake Burley Griffin have left motorsports in their wake. Photo: Supplied.

Over the past 30 years, there have been various attempts and trials to introduce water sports such as jet skiing and water skiing on Lake Burley Griffin.

As a topic for talkback, callers fell into two very distinct groups. Some felt the lake was ceremonial and should be free of motorsports. Others believed it would liven up the under-utilised body of water in the middle of the city.

The only motorised craft permitted to use the central portions of the lake are the ferries, the water police, the ‘tinnies’ used by rowing coaches and officials, sailing rescue, and boats used for functions or parties.

I was a supporter of allowing motorsports on the lake at the time because I felt the lake was being under-utilised with very little activity beyond sailors, swimmers, paddlers, paddle boats, dragon boats and early morning rowers.

The argument from those in the motorised water sports fraternity was that there was no reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to use the lake for their activities as well.

Amid tight restrictions, water skiing had a trial run to the east of the lake about 15 years ago as the sport looked to expand beyond the Molonglo River.


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Jet skiing also appeared on the lake for a short trial run in the central basin but was seen more as a novelty than anything long-term.

Both trials didn’t appear to create too many issues, but neither proceeded beyond the trial stage because of concerns over the impact on the lake and surrounds.

The Heritage Management Plan for the lake, as I understand it, seeks to minimise the noise levels and the disruption to the water surface.

But while I once supported the expansion of motorised water sports on the lake, I now believe the moment has passed, especially as passive activity on the lake has increased markedly over the past decade or so.

The influx of dragon boats, in particular, and their relocation to the eastern section of the lake makes it impossible for co-existence with water skiers. Like much of Canberra, everything has its place, and the rowers and sailors now happily occupy the western section of the lake.

The small, motorised tourist boats, which have been introduced in more recent history, and the ferries, have little impact on the surface water or the surrounds.

There is also the housing development closer to the lake to consider, which wasn’t there when the campaign for motorsports was in full swing.

The impact on the residents of Clare Holland House also needs to be considered.

For these reasons, I believe the time has passed to introduce sports such as jet skiing on the lake. It might have been possible 15 years ago, but there is now simply too much activity on Lake Burley Griffin to warrant such a move.


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8 Responses to Time to wave goodbye to motorsports on Lake Burley Griffin
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yamaam yamaam 11:00 am 10 Feb 21

That’s great news. No need for noisy motors disturbing the serenity of the basin.

    jwinston jwinston 2:09 pm 10 Feb 21

    What are your thoughts on water aircraft using the lake? From my experience they are a lot noisier than a tinny with a two-stroke motor.

    gazmos gazmos 6:01 pm 10 Feb 21

    The seaplanes are merely a cheap government promotion to get news coverage. Hardly viable and not a comfortable service if anyone has been in a seaplane.

keek keek 9:32 am 10 Feb 21

Nonsense.
People seem able to share every other lake in the country between powered and unpowered boats. Why is this one different?
The lakes in Canberra should not be for the exclusive use of rowers and sailing clubs. Again, we have about 100 times more registered boat and jetski trailers in the ACT than rowing, dragon boating and sailing combined.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 11:37 am 10 Feb 21

    ACT anglers get it “free” as well. Across the border it costs about $35 a year. ACT spends a lot in restocking but there is no effort made on cost recovery. Rangers to enforce almost everything else exist so why not get anglers into the revenue stream too?

    keek keek 11:51 am 10 Feb 21

    Maybe when the lakes aren’t full of carp we could consider that. At this point people are removing them for free.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:08 pm 10 Feb 21

    I thought for a minute you said crap not carp but the lake appears full of both.

    Carp are still fish and certain cultures like to eat them so why should the get them for free.

    gazmos gazmos 6:05 pm 10 Feb 21

    Totally agree with shared use with powered boats. Goodness we might get ferry services that travels at more than 5 knots. The lake has to more than an aesthetic silent water course – it needs life, activity and sound.

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