Authorities talk tough on water theft
NSW water authorities say they will not hesitate to take action on irrigators who flout the law.
The NSW Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) authority is overseen by a board chaired by Murray-Darling Basin Authority chair Craig Knowles.
New arrangements have given NRAR stronger powers to, in extreme cases, stop irrigators accessing water.
NRAR chief regulatory officer Grant Barnes has been travelling the state to meet irrigators and discussing the alleged theft of water by farmers.
“What is alleged to have happened was quite possibly the actions of a few who have really sullied the reputation of the many,” he told the ABC.
“Having compliance staff back on the ground is a reassurance that those good operators can say confidently that they've had NRAR on their property and they've said they comply.”
National Irrigators Council chief Steve Whan said there is a real need for “boots on the ground” in irrigation valleys.
“It is about the importance of having people on the ground, of having people out there working with irrigators,” he said.
“It's about understanding irrigators and being there reasonably regularly.
“It's a resourcing issue that our members have been saying they need for some time.”
Mr Barnes said some believe that the fines for breaching the rules are not a sufficient deterrent. If irrigators are flouting the law, he said he would take stronger measures.
“At the top end of the powers that are applicable is the removal or the lessening of the right to take water,” he said.
“Now that would be quite a punitive sanction to apply.
“Our approach is that of a fair regulator, but there is some firmness, some bite to our powers.
“We won't hesitate to take action where we see operators flouting the law.”