NRAR community benchmarking survey

In 2020, the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) commissioned our first community benchmarking survey to better understand the regulated community and its needs. The survey also provided a baseline to help track high-level community views on the enforcement of water laws and the regulator since its inception.

Market research company Woolcott Research & Engagement conducted the survey, and all respondents were anonymous. A sample of approximately 1,000 regulated entities, 1,000 members of the public and 40 stakeholder groups took part.

The survey is part of NRAR’s broader stakeholder engagement approach.

Survey findings

The following are some of the key findings from the inaugural survey:

  • All respondent groups (water users, stakeholder groups and the public) believe it is very important for NSW water laws to be enforced, because it ensures water is shared fairly, is the right thing to do, protects the environment and aids in sustainability.
  • Respondents believe users should not break the water rules.
  • Respondents consistently feel that most water users do the right thing, with only a minority of rule breakers.
  • About two-thirds of regulated entities surveyed report that they know all of the rules that they need to comply with, with only around a third who don’t feel they know everything about their obligations.
  • Overall, there is moderate confidence in the enforcement of NSW water laws among participants, with plenty of room for improvement.
  • Awareness of NRAR, our activities and our impact is low. There are also only low levels of agreement that NRAR is communicating sufficiently.
  • There is support for increasing awareness of NRAR and what we do, and for providing more education about the rules. In addition, respondents support NRAR working collaboratively with water users to assist them in doing the right thing.
  • Most of the regulated entities and stakeholders surveyed want to hear more about water enforcement, licensing and regulation.
  • Regulated entities also suggest enhancing NRAR’s ability to detect breaches and being harsher with fines and prosecutions.

Read more about the survey findings.

Next steps

NRAR is developing a suite of initiatives to target areas that the benchmarking survey identified. These include:

  • increasing community engagement—NRAR will implement a revised stakeholder engagement strategy. We plan to engage with key community groups digitally and increase our presence at conferences, forums and other events
  • extending the reach of education—NRAR will broaden our education program by developing new products and innovative ways to help water users comply. We will share these products with water users through our operational teams and engagement with stakeholder organisations
  • enhancing our communications—We want to increase understanding of the water rules and NRAR, and to reach wider audiences by using traditional and non-traditional communications activities and channels
  • expanding our presence in regional NSW—NRAR will increase our capacity for site inspections by three times with the rollout of new routine monitoring teams in Dubbo, Tamworth and Deniliquin. These teams will visit 3,000 properties to report on rates of compliance and to engage with water users to promote voluntary compliance and help them understand their obligations
  • continuing to build our capabilities (people and technology)—NRAR has committed in our 2020 regulatory capability plan to becoming a leading regulator in training and procedures over the next five years. We are also investing in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our compliance and enforcement activities using enhanced technology and knowledge management. Additionally, we are working to develop tools that will give water users visibility into their applications during approval processes.

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