Fines issued by NSW water regulator concerned by illegal earthworks

Media release | 1 November 2018

The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) has fined four landowners in October for illegal earthworks near NSW waterways and is keen to get the message out – you must have controlled activity approval before digging near waterways.

The NRAR’s Chief Regulatory Officer Grant Barnes said landholders need to be aware that many activities on waterfront land must have their approval or they risk being fined and/or prosecuted.

“Illegal works around our watercourses threatens the health of our rivers and the accessibility of this precious natural resource to all water users downstream.

“If you’re planning to do any works on or within 40m of a waterway or water body, and those works could change water flow or quality or erode banks, you need controlled activity approval.

“Approvals ensure works are done in a way that minimises harm to the waterfront land and other water users. This includes removing or depositing material, as happened in cases this month.

"In additional to the fine, land holders are also required to remediate the areas they disturbed to return it to how it was, and that can be costly,” Mr Barnes said.

The NRAR took the following illegal earthworks actions in October:

  • A property owner from Garland Valley near Putty was issued with a $750 penalty notice for constructing a vehicle crossing on a third-order stream without approval, an offence under s91E of the Water Management Act 2000. The landowner was also directed to remove the crossing.
  • A landowner on Oxley Island near Taree was issued with a $750 penalty notice for depositing material on waterfront land, raising its profile. Further action will be taken by the NRAR to have the material removed. The action is an offence under s91E of the Water Management Act 2000.
  • A man from Mallowa near Moree was issued with a $750 penalty notice for constructing levee banks without a floodwork approval for the purpose of floodplain harvesting. The action is an offence under s91D of the Water Management Act 2000. One of the levees was voluntarily removed and action was undertaken to prevent the harvest of environmental water from current flows.
  • A landowner from Shooters Hill near Oberon was issued with a $750 penalty notice for excavating material from a fourth-order stream without approval. The works resulted in a number of small pools and is an offence under s91E of the Water Management Act 2000.

Action was also taken by the NRAR against a Narrandera landowner in October. He was issued with a $750 penalty notice for pumping water for irrigation without a working meter, an offence under s91I of the Water Management Act 2000, and given a notice of direction to upgrade his metering.

The NRAR’s investigators and compliance officers travel all over the state’s 57 water sharing plan areas, inspecting properties and assessing compliance with water users’ licences and the Water Management Act 2000.

To make a confidential report on suspected water misuse, contact the NRAR Hotline on 1800 633 362 or email

For further information about the NRAR and what it does, visit here.

Illegal earthworks near a waterway