Clearing muddied waters

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

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The Natural Resources Access Regulator's chief regulatory officer Grant Barnes.

The Natural Resources Access Regulator's chief regulatory officer Grant Barnes.

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NRAR's Grant Barnes says the ambiguous environment the disallowance has created will be considered through NRAR's investigations, alongside key regulatory principles of severity, culpability and attitude to non-compliance.

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The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) was established in 2018 as an independent, transparent and effective regulator responsible for the enforcement of water management legislation in NSW.

Following the disallowance of the Water Management (General) Amendment (Exemptions for Floodplain Harvesting) Regulation 2020 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 our hard work to investigate alleged breaches of water law. We use 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.

The ambiguous environment the disallowance has created will be considered through our investigations, alongside key regulatory principles of severity, culpability and attitude to non-compliance.

Until floodplain harvesting licences are issued in July 2021, our team will continue to enforce the law.

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 1367 investigations, 496 enforcement actions including the commencement of 15 prosecutions in the 2019-20 financial year. This demonstrates NRAR's position as a firm, yet fair regulator.

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

  • Grant Barnes is NRAR's chief regulatory officer and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the regulator which is charged with adding transparency and building community confidence in water compliance and enforcement in NSW.
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