WaterNSW has commenced several prosecution proceedings against Barwon-Darling irrigators following extensive investigations.
These prosecutions are the result of comprehensive investigations into allegations of water management rule breaches in the Barwon-Darling unregulated water source in north western NSW.
The prosecutions include some cases concerning a property that has been the subject of media coverage, as well as another property that WaterNSW has investigated as part of its compliance activity.
In the Land and Environment Court action against Peter Harris and Jane Harris, WaterNSW alleges that the defendants took water when the flow conditions did not permit it, and breached licence and approval conditions. The maximum penalty for each of these offences is $247,500.
In the Land and Environment Court action against Anthony Barlow, Frederick Barlow and Margaret Barlow, WaterNSW alleges that the defendants were pumping during an embargo and pumping while metering equipment was not working. The maximum penalty for each of these offences is $247,500.
In 2017 and 2018 WaterNSW carried out detailed investigations concerning activities in the Barwon-Darling region and an assessment of the factors relevant to whether it is appropriate to commence prosecution proceedings.
In determining whether to commence a prosecution for alleged illegal water activities, WaterNSW must have regard to the criminal standard of beyond reasonable doubt and it must act impartially, in the public interest and without influence from external pressures.
Completing the necessary investigations and determining the appropriate regulatory response within these parameters takes time.
As these matters are now before the court, further details will not be released.
WaterNSW is also completing investigations of other alleged illegal water activities in the Barwon-Darling and other water sources, and expects to provide further updates regarding enforcement action shortly.
WaterNSW receives hundreds of allegations of breaches of water management rules annually from across the state. WaterNSW undertakes all appropriate investigatory steps thoroughly and efficiently, and pursues enforcement action where appropriate to secure compliance.
WaterNSW currently has responsibility for ensuring compliance with water management legislation and will continue to carry out that function until it is transferred to the independent Natural Resources Access Regulator which is expected to be functioning in early April 2018.