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Water boundary determinations

Throughout NSW many properties are bound by waterways, tidal and non-tidal waters including oceans, rivers and lakes. The beds of most tidal waters (including oceans and rivers) and many of the beds of non-tidal waters (including rivers, streams and lakes) comprise Crown land and are managed by NSW Crown land (the Department). Over time these physical water boundaries may change position by natural processes such as erosion or accretion (Doctrine of Accretion). The current land title depicting these boundaries may not necessarily reflect the location of the boundary as it is today.

Generally this is not a problem. However, if there is a proposal to subdivide or develop such a property, a survey of the property and possibly title amendment may be required to reflect the latest position of the boundary. This is done through a redefinition of that boundary - otherwise referred to as a water boundary determination.

Where a property is bound by waters under the control of the Crown, an amendment of the water boundary definition requires an agreement between the property owner and the Minister administering the Crown Lands Act 1989 (on behalf of the Crown). The agreement is by way of a plan of survey of the land suitable for registration and title creation.

In such instances a registered surveyor, acting for the freehold property owner, is required under the Surveying and Spatial Information Regulation 2012 to obtain the approval of the Minister to the position of the redefined water boundary prior to lodging the amended survey plan for registration with the Land and Property Information Division.

Where the bed of the water body is not Crown land or is vested in another authority, such as in the case of Sydney Harbour, then approval is required from the respective owner or authority. Maritime at NSW Roads & Maritime Services (RMS) is the authority responsible for administering all land below mean high water mark in Sydney Harbour, Botany Bay, Newcastle Harbour and Port Kembla Harbour. Applications for mean high water mark determinations affecting these waterways should be lodged with that authority. You may contact NSW Maritime online at or alternatively phone: 13 12 36.

The Surveyor Generals Directions (No.6) provide details of the specific requirements for water boundary determinations.

Coastal Protection Act 1979

With effect from 7 February 2003 Clause 55N of the Coastal Protection Act 1979 modified the doctrine of accretion. This clause applies to land within the coastal zone or adjoining the tidal waters of Sydney Harbour or Botany Bay, or their tributaries and with a boundary defined, directly or indirectly, by the mean high water mark.

Specifically, the Minister has no power to approve a redetermination where the landward parcel would increase in area and the trend for such a change is not indefinitely sustainable by natural means or as a consequence of the determination, public access along the foreshore is likely to be restricted or denied.

Applying for a water boundary determination

  1. Download the Water Boundary: Determination application form (PDF, 389.2 KB), or contact us to ask us to send one to you.
  2. Engage a Registered Surveyor to act on your behalf to conduct an assessment of your mean high water mark water boundary against Crown land. By Regulation, only a Registered Surveyor is able to make application for the boundary on your title to be changed.
  3. The Registered Surveyor will submit the Water Boundary: Determination application form, current fee and appropriate plans and report showing the proposed boundary change. Applications, including the relevant payment, should be sent to Accounts per the details on the Contact Us page.
  4. The Department will liaise directly with the Registered Surveyor regarding the processing of the application to change the water boundary.

How to find a Registered Surveyor

  1. Contact the Board of Surveying and Spatial Information (BOSSI) at to search for Registered Surveyors in your area. Alternatively, the Yellow Pages may assist in locating a surveyor who services your local area.
  2. Ask the Registered Surveyor to provide you with a written quote to determine the cost of undertaking a water boundary survey.
  3. To ensure the Registered Surveyor is currently registered, contact BOSSI.