Oberon community the winner after regulator's deal with gardens

Media release | 16 September 2021

In a win for the Oberon community, a local business has offered to establish several programs to benefit vulnerable local groups and school students, as an alternative to other enforcement action for water law breaches.

Pegela Pty Ltd, trading as Mayfield Garden, has entered into an ‘enforceable undertaking’ with the state’s water regulator, after the company was found to be operating bores without the correct approvals.

Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) Water Enforcement Taskforce Director Kirsty Ruddock said NRAR and Mayfield took an innovative approach to enforcement and agreed on a solution to benefit the community.

“Traditional enforcement could include a stop work order to the business which would have significantly affected the operation of the gardens and therefore impacted its role as both a major tourist attraction and employer in the Oberon region,” Ms Ruddock said.

“By working with Pegela, we have agreed on a far more sensible solution as it directly benefits the local community. It’s a good outcome for all parties.”

As part of the enforceable undertaking, Pegela has offered to set up a community program focusing on three key sectors of the community - mental health, education, and prisoner rehabilitation.

Pegela company spokesman Chris Muldoon said Mayfield had always been well-supported by the local community, and these programs were another way of showing their appreciation.

“It is a well-known fact that gardens can play a healing role in the rehabilitation and treatment of many community groups, so it made sense for us to make Mayfield available to those who need it most,” Mr Muldoon said.

“We are in the process of developing the community program and hope to have full details on our website next month.”

Pegela operates 12 bores across the 66ha of garden at Oberon and had been fully compliant for almost 30 years. Charging admission in 2014 meant extra approvals had to be obtained for the commercial parts of the gardens – a water licence, water use approval and an allocation in the water source.

The source was the Lachlan Fold Belt Murray-Darling Basin groundwater source, which is subject to a water sharing plan.

The company had also constructed works without controlled activity approvals. As part of the undertaking, Pegela has agreed to:

  • obtain the required licences and approvals and purchase water through a controlled allocation
  • install authorised metering equipment on the bores
  • undertake the community program
  • pay NRAR $2500 to cover the cost of the investigation and monitoring

“We were unaware our decision to charge an entry fee for the upkeep of the garden would change our regulatory status. We have appreciated the opportunity to work with NRAR to ensure compliance moving forward,” Mr Muldoon said.

The enforceable undertaking entered into with NRAR is a legally binding alternative to stop work orders, fines or court action. Both parties agreed on this course of action as part of Mayfield’s movement to a position of water compliance.

To make a confidential report on suspected water misuse, go to dpie.nsw.gov.au/nrar- suspicious-activity-report.

To find out more about NRAR’s other enforcement actions visit dpie.nsw.gov.au/nrar-enforceable-undertakings.

Picturesque view of Mayfield Gardens on an autumn day in Oberon, New South Wales.Picturesque view of Mayfield Gardens on an autumn day in Oberon, New South Wales.