Water regulator gets $5m boost as cases solved

There's now 145 officers keeping on eye on inland water use

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The NSW Government is boosting its control over water theft in the state with a doubling of water monitor officers. (This is a generic pic with no relation to water theft).

The NSW Government is boosting its control over water theft in the state with a doubling of water monitor officers. (This is a generic pic with no relation to water theft).

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Twelve complaints a day about water theft

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People are dobbing in alleged water thieves by as much as 12 a day, as the State Government moves to clamp down on water theft in regional NSW.

The Land understands that a hotline established to allow people to report alleged water thefts is receiving 12 calls a day - 4000 in total, with 773 breach allegations.

The NSW Government says before the establishment of the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) there were 483 cases of alleged water breaches.

It says it has whittled that number of cases down to 30 remaining to investigate.

Meanwhile, the Government announced in the Budget it will invest an additional $5.1m in the NRAR.

Water Minister Melinda Pavey said in its first 12 months, the NRAR has increased compliance activity by 80 per cent and doubled its on-the-ground compliance staff.

"We need to build trust in the system while supporting irrigation communities - catching those who have done the wrong thing and recognising those doing the right thing," Mrs Pavey said.

As part of the drought support package the NSW Government will give $30 million in rebates for fixed charges on water licences that don't receive a water "

"This will encompass areas in the Murray, Murrumbidgee, Gwydir, Lachlan, Lower Darling, Barwon Darling, Namoi, Macquarie, Boarder Rivers, Peel River and Belubula," she said.

"A further $500,000 is allocated to work with water-dependent industries, such as mines and abattoirs, to help them become more water efficient and keep them operating during this drought.

"In many of these towns, it is these industries that are supporting the local economy through the drought. It is important that we support these industries so that they can continue to support their towns."

The Water ministry said: "The 2019-20 Budget will also support landowners by allocating $13 million over four years for water efficiency and prevent water loss in the Great Artesian Basin.

"This continues a 20-year investment in efficient infrastructure, which has removed 10,000km of bore drains and installed 18,000km of pipes to save 76 gigalitres per year across more than 4.2 million hectares."

Meanwhile, the NRAR is marking its first year by increasing water investigation rates.

On the 30 April 2018, NRAR inherited 483 cases of alleged breaches from previous water regulation agencies and have only 30 remaining.

Mrs Pavey said NSW has surpassed the other states on water compliance regulation and is now setting the standards everyone needs to follow.

"The NSW Government's current reforms, and the introduction of the NRAR a year ago, means we now have the strongest water compliance and enforcement system in the country with a zero tolerance for water theft," Minister Pavey said.

"I met with the NRAR team and they will continue to focus on making sure the compliance of our most precious resource is transparent and fair. This is especially important when so many in our regional communities are doing it tough."

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

The NRAR's Chief Regulatory Officer, Grant Barnes, said community confidence in the work they do means they have received over 4000 hotline calls or emails to date - an average of 12 a day. 773 of these being breach allegations.

"We've achieved a lot in our first year, we hit the ground running and we will not slow down when it comes to protecting the state's precious water resources.

"We have doubled our initial complement of 73 officers, the majority of NRAR's 145 staff are on the front line undertaking licensing, targeted investigations, monitoring and auditing across the state.

"Educating and helping water users comply with water laws when out in the field is just as important as the enforcement work we do, especially during drought."

"While we are very proud of what we have achieved so far, we know that there is plenty more to do and we are just getting started. However we can't do this alone. With the cooperation of water users and the community we will ensure fair and equitable use of our precious water resources," Mr Barnes said.

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