Action 1.4 Reinforce the effectiveness of the Natural Resources Access Regulator
The Government will continue to build the capacity of the NRAR to fulfil its role as a fair but firm regulator of water management and give the community confidence that water plans are implemented and rules are enforced. We will:
|undertake more extensive and effective promotion of the regulatory approach and actions of the NRAR|
|clarify water user obligations and communicate them clearly, so that water sharing plans across the state more effectively underpin a modern and enforceable licensing system|
|increase the NRAR’s use of and access to technology, such as remote sensors, satellite imagery and drones, enabling the NRAR to better direct its investigations and resources to address the instances of highest harm to water users and the environment.|
Rebuilding trust in compliance
The NSW Government established the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) to crack down on illegal water use and rebuild trust in the community around water use and access.
Since its formation, the NRAR has launched 31 prosecutions in court and undertaken more than 1,100 individual compliance actions including 464 formal warnings, 379 statutory directions and 373 infringement notices. In 2019/20 alone, the NRAR investigated 1,367 cases, conducted 1,614 proactive compliance actions and initiated 118 enforcement actions.
Proactive compliance campaigns are run routinely alongside investigations of suspicious activity reported by the public. These reports are prioritised so that those with the potential to cause the most harm to waterways, water users or the environment are dealt with first. Currently, the NRAR’s investigators and compliance officers travel throughout the state’s 58 water sharing plan areas, inspecting properties and assessing compliance with water users’ licences and the Water Management Act 2000.
The NRAR regularly publishes reports on its activities and maintains a public register that details enforcement actions taken under the Water Management Act 2000 and prosecution outcomes. The NRAR is also developing a strategic engagement plan to make sure that water users understand their obligations and are aware of the consequences of non-compliance and the compliance approach of the regulator.
Action 1.7 Make sure the majority of non-urban water take in NSW is accurately measured
The Government will ensure that the vast majority of non-urban water take, including floodplain harvesting, in NSW is measured by accurate, auditable and tamper-proof meters. Key milestones for delivering this action are:
Non-urban water metering rules
Floodplain harvesting measurement rules
Playing by the rules
Most water users do the right thing and they—and the broader community—expect those who don’t to be held accountable.
Across NSW, new rules are being rolled out to significantly improve metering and measuring of non-urban water take. Development of these rules was a key commitment of the NSW Government’s 2017 Water Reform Action Plan and the Murray–Darling Basin Compliance Compact.
The new non-urban metering rules became law in December 2018 and will take effect in a staged roll-out between 2020 and 2023. The rules will ensure that more than 95% of licensed non-urban water take capacity is measured accurately. NSW is also establishing a robust regime for measuring and monitoring the water take from floodplain harvesting.
The new rules are based on ‘internet of things’ telemetry technology, allowing information about water use to be transmitted in near real time to government agencies and water users. In the short term, this technology will drive efficiencies in the way government undertakes its regulatory, billing, river management and water planning functions.
It will also pave the way to expanded functions over time, such as:
- increased automation of compliance and enforcement functions
- integration with other systems to implement water management rules, such as active management of environmental flows and water modelling
- supporting more publicly accessible information about water take
- integration with automated on farm infrastructure, such as a ‘remote’ on and off switches for pumps, soil moisture probes and weather stations.
Over time - as the costs of metering and telemetry technology decrease, and the benefits to government, water users and the general community increase - it is reasonable to expect that NSW will achieve near universal uptake of telemetry-enabled metering equipment.
Importantly, the new rules are driving an increase in the size, maturity and technological sophistication of the water metering industry, creating jobs and export opportunities and driving competition and innovation that will deliver further benefits to NSW and Australia.