NRAR's position on enforcing water laws remains clear after disallowance

Media release | 16 October 2020

NRAR Chief Regulatory Officer Grant Barnes says the regulator’s position on the matter remains clear and that NRAR will continue to investigate alleged breaches on a case by case basis.

“NRAR was established in 2018 as an independent, transparent and effective regulator responsible for the enforcement of water management legislation in NSW,” Barnes said.

“Following the disallowance last month, we understand water users and landholders across the state are facing uncertainty regarding floodplain harvesting.

“Water management laws are complex. This is why NRAR approaches all investigations on a case by case basis, including assessing each individual landholder’s circumstances.

“We will continue to investigate alleged breaches of water law, using sophisticated technologies – including satellite imagery, drone surveillance and remote sensors for water monitoring to support this essential work.

“While the NSW Government is actively undertaking the licensing of floodplain harvesting works, NRAR’s regulatory priorities remain focused on unlawful water take rather than eligible structures which may be licenced within months.

“As the independent water regulator in NSW, we are responsible for enforcing water laws in NSW and remain independent from the policy decisions made within the NSW Government.

“NRAR doesn't make the law, we enforce it. As it currently stands, the law will be enforced in the event of serious, substantiated and wilful non-compliance.”

From the licensing of water allocations, to publicising water trading activity and enforcing limits on licensed water take, Barnes says NRAR has always acted to ensure that the rules are fairly applied and rigorously enforced – floodplain harvesting will be no exception.

NRAR will consider the ambiguous environment the disallowance has created during its investigations, alongside its key regulatory principles of severity, culpability and attitude to non-compliance.

“Until floodplain harvesting licences are issued in July 2021, NRAR will continue to enforce the law,” Barnes continued.

“In our experience, most water users want to do the right thing. We will continue to work with those who may need our assistance to get into compliance. It’s only a small minority of water users that commit acts of wilful non-compliance and they remain the focus of our enforcement efforts.

“A fair go for all has underpinned the hard work NRAR has undertaken across NSW since our inception in April 2018. We wholeheartedly agree with this  community expectation, which is reflected in the 1,367 investigations, 496 enforcement actions including the commencement of 5 prosecutions in the 2019-20 financial year. This demonstrates NRAR’s position as a firm, yet fair regulator.”

To see the work NRAR does, go to its public register on the NRAR website industry.nsw.gov.au/nrar. Go to ‘Reports and data’, then ‘NRAR Public Register’.

To make a confidential report on suspected water misuse, contact the NRAR Hotline on 1800 633 362 or email nrar.enquiries@nrar.nsw.gov.au.