Water use compliance measures have advanced in both Queensland and New South Wales.
The Queensland Government recently released the findings of its Independent Audit of Queensland Non-Urban Water Measurement and Compliance, and its subsequent recommendations.
The Audit’s recommendations included strengthening water use compliance accompanied by independent auditing measures, introducing standard metering policy for water extractions, bolstering compliance resourcing, improving transparency and conducting a review of existing legislation and regulations.
Cotton Australia welcomed the findings and said it looked forward to working with the Queensland Government to improve the effectiveness of the state's water compliance system, in order to rebuild trust in water use management.
With government costings not yet released, Cotton Australia said it wanted to work with legislators and regulators to ensure the refreshed compliance system was effective and cost-effective.
Meantime, the New South Wales Parliament has passed strict new laws targeting water theft.
The Water Management Amendment Bill 2018 was passed last week, and came after the release of the Matthews Inquiry’s final report late last year and the formation of the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR).
Under the new laws, corporations illegally taking water in NSW will face penalties up to $5 million, while individuals could be hit with fines up to $500,000.
The legislative reforms also include:
- New offences around metering and providing false or misleading information
- A public information register detailing a licence holder’s details and compliance activity
- New powers for the Minister to embargo water take when managing environmental water
- Fresh tools for the NRAR, such as enforceable undertakings and mandatory audits, as well as a requirement for all licensed users to be metered.