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Crown land water frontage


Crown land is a class of public (government owned) land, provided for the enjoyment and benefit of the people of Victoria. (Other types of public land include National and other parks, State Forests, and other public purpose reserves.)  

For most of the 19th century, governments sold land owned by the Crown to stimulate economic development, population growth and settlement across the State. In the latter half of the 19th century, the Government recognised that certain lands should be kept in public ownership. It began to reserve Crown land for public purposes, such as parks and gardens, schools, courts and hospitals. 

Today, about 550,000 hectares of Victoria is Crown land, with a further 7.4 million hectares of public land occupied by parks, forests and conservation reserves – about one-third of Victoria. The rest is ‘freehold land’, i.e. privately owned land, which has been sold under a separate title.


A Crown land water frontage is any strip of Crown land that runs alongside designated rivers and streams. That land may not continue for the whole length of the river or stream. 

Generally a Crown water frontage would have a width of approximately 20-30 metres. However, the actual width of the water frontage may vary considerably because of the distance between the water frontage and any adjoining private land. Often the exact boundaries are unknown as the Crown land may not have been formally surveyed, or the course of the river or stream may have altered over time.

Not all water frontages are Crown land. Only 20% of Victoria’s 128,000 kilometres of water frontage is Crown land. The rest is generally privately owned land.

Management of these Crown land water frontages is the responsibility of the Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning (DELWP), unless DELWP has issued a licence to another body or person. If this is the case, the licensee is responsible for management of the water frontage.

DELWP may issue a licence for agricultural use over a Crown water frontage to an owner/occupier of the adjoining private land on behalf of the relevant Minister. When considering an application to use a Crown land water frontage, DELWP must ensure that public land values are protected. Examples of public land values include environmental, historic, recreation, natural resource and cultural significance.

Grazing is the main use for which Crown land water frontages are licensed. Other uses for which DELWP may issue a licence, are the growing of crops and planting of native vegetation.

A licence over a Crown land water frontage provides personal permission to enter and use the land for a specified purpose but does not offer exclusive use to the licensee. When a Crown land water frontage is licensed, the public retains the right to enter and remain on the land for passive recreational purposes, e.g. walking, fishing or bird watching. However, members of the public are not permitted to camp, light fires or carry firearms on the land.

Pedestrian access must be provided at any fence that crosses the frontage through the provision of a stile or unlocked gate. However, members of the public are strongly advised to contact the landholder/licensee before accessing any river or stream frontage.

Download a factsheet from the DELWP website: 

Crown land water frontage licences    


A riparian management licence for a Crown water frontage recognises that all or part of the frontage is being managed by licensees to protect and improve the riparian environment (e.g. fenced out and supporting native vegetation). Controlled grazing may be permitted on the riparian land, if approved by the local CMA and DELWP.

Riparian management licences are typically generated through the conversion of an existing grazing licence as part of a CMA-landholder agreement for fencing and revegetation in riparian areas.

The long-term management responsibilities agreed to by the landholder in the CMA agreement are incorporated as special conditions into a riparian management licence.

These special conditions remain with the licence which may be transferred if the adjacent private land changes hands. Licences are generally reviewed every 5 years. 

Many projects on Crown land that include fencing to manage stock access to a waterway qualify for a riparian management licence, e.g. Catchment Management Authority (CMA), Landcare or privately funded projects.

The benefits of a riparian licence to landholders include: 

  • Licensees are charged a fair rental fee, as some of the Crown water frontage is fenced to prevent stock access to the waterway
  • In some cases, the fee is $1 on demand, typically when the frontage is fenced to prevent stock access
  • Members of the public are not permitted to camp or light camp fires on licensed Crown water frontages
  • Landholders are able to obtain a take and use licence to maintain their access to water, even if the frontage is fenced.
  • Controlled grazing may be permitted on the riparian land (if approved by the local CMA and DELWP).

In CMA priority areas, landholders may be eligible for incentives for fencing and revegetation on the Crown land if they agree to take out a riparian management licence. The location of the fence may be negotiated between the landholder and the CMA.

The maintenance of the riparian protection and improvement works is secured through the special conditions on the licence. This will help to ensure the long term protection of these works and the riparian area.

Download a factsheet from the DELWP website: 

Riparian management licences