The New South Wales water regulator has taken more than 150 recent enforcement actions against property owners across the state for a range of breaches to water laws.
- NRAR took more than 150 enforcement actions against property owners across the state in the last quarter
- Landholders were pinged for breaches to the Water Management Act including illegal dams and improper water metering
- The most penalty notices were issued to horticulturists on the Coffs Coast
Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) investigated and finalised almost 1,000 reports of breaches to the Water Management Act between July and September, nearly five times the number of cases concluded in the previous quarter.
“We used technology to ensure that people were doing the right thing, and we were able to undertake 911 investigations,” NRAR’s compliance manager Graeme White said.
Horticulture in hot water
Mr White said reports of misconduct came from all over the state, but several regions stood out.
“The highest number of reports where people had identified that there may be landholders doing the wrong thing came from the Namoi and the Lachlan River regions, and the Macquarie and Castlereagh regions,” he said.
“They were for a range of things from how people were using water, infrastructure and flood work issues, and potential breaches of the Water Management Act.”
Of the 150 enforcement actions taken, 69 were directions or stop-work orders, 32 were penalty notices, and 51 were formal warnings or official cautions.
Mr White said the most penalty notices were issued on the state’s North Coast.
“Illegal dams on the North Coast have been a bit of an issue that we are working on, as well as other issues with non-compliance to the water act.”
Industry welcomes investigations
Berries Australia executive director Rachel Mackenzie said she was pleased to see NRAR was taking action.
“We support the activities of NRAR in enforcing the rules around water use,” she said.
“Without more detail, it’s impossible for us to comment on the specifics of this report.
Ms Mackenzie said the regulator closely monitored berry growers on the north coast.
“There has been a heavy focus on the horticulture region around Coffs Harbour,” she said.
The Protected Growers Association that represents greenhouse growers such as cucumber and tomato farmers, has been contacted for comment.
Investigations continued despite COVID
NRAR took more enforcement actions between July and September than any other quarter in the previous 12 months, despite the state being lockdown.
“The statewide lockdown meant we conducted fewer than five on-farm inspections between July and September, but landholders need to realise that we can monitor in other ways now as well.” Mr White said.
NRAR used satellites and smart data to remotely audit more than 600 properties, and water users were spoken to by investigators over the phone.