Water compliance just getting started

New water compliance body NRAR responds to water theft and other complaints

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Grant Barnes, Natural Resources Access Regulator of NSW chief regulatory officer.

Grant Barnes, Natural Resources Access Regulator of NSW chief regulatory officer.


NRAR has already issued 30 penalties and launched six prosecutions from thousands of tip-offs it has received since its launch.


With more than 490 tip-offs investigated, the state’s new water compliance arm, the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR), is responding to the community’s cry for stringent water compliance management.

We have sent, and will continue to send, a clear message – stealing water or harming waterways will not be tolerated in NSW.

We have issued four stop-work orders, eight directions to protect waters, and 14 remediation notices.

We have never shied away from taking tough action. We have issued 30 penalties and launched six prosecutions.

The most recent case saw a Corowa landowner and contractor fined $15,000 and $7500 respectively after pleading guilty to unlawful works on a river system.

The NRAR is getting results due to the strong presence of our compliance officers, who have boots on the ground across the state.

Already, NRAR compliance officers have inspected more than 200 properties and have become a regular fixture in farming communities across NSW. We have visited Bourke, for example, nine times.

Spreading the message about what NRAR does and how to comply is just as important as taking action against non-compliance.

I have spent countless hours meeting with landholders and community groups – time that has given me a strong appreciation of the challenges you face as you head into what is shaping up as further dry months.

Illegal earthworks near a waterway.

Illegal earthworks near a waterway.

The vast majority of water users comply with the law. The NRAR has the full backing of the NSW Government to stamp out the small minority of rogue operators who are bringing down the name of all those who are doing the right thing.

We won’t be letting up because regional communities need our help to ensure water use is fair and transparent. But it’s a two-way street – we are all in this together to ensure fair water management and so we call on the public to report any suspicious activity around our waterways. We need your help – we can’t do it alone.

That public engagement has been key to our success so far. We have provided advice or received tip-offs from 1192 emails and 1047 phone calls to our hotline. But we are just getting started – there is so much more to do.

The NSW Government set up NRAR as a strong and fair cop on the beat to re-build public trust and confidence in water sharing, as part of the Water Reform Action Plan that overhauled the way water is managed in the state.

We were given orders to become a leading water regulator in Australia. I believe other states are watching our approach very closely.

Central to that is a culture of transparency. We publish all of our compliance activities, our engagement with stakeholders, our policies and guidelines, and the actions of our board on our website.

It is part of our work to be a reasonable, fair, and transparent water regulator with zero tolerance for water theft.

Contact NRAR: 1800 633 362 or nrar.enquiries@nrar.nsw.gov.au

  • By Grant Barnes, Natural Resources Access Regulator of NSW chief regulatory officer.

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