Natural Resources Access Regulator chief visits Moree ahead of new monitoring program launch

Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) chief regulatory officer Grant Barnes was in Moree last week working with new recruits as part of a new Routine Monitoring Program which will be launched in October.

Thirty new monitoring officers have been deployed into regional NSW as part of the new program, which will triple the number of site inspections the NRAR carries out.

The new officers will be located across Tamworth, Dubbo and Deniliquin, however they will be regularly monitoring farms across the Murray-Darling Basin.

Mr Barnes said the Routine Monitoring Program is part of a broader plan to build compliance through education and collaboration.

"Our intention is to inspect licence holders, or farmers who hold water access licences," he said.

"We'll check equipment, provide advice and give guidance. These new officers will be supporting water users, bolstering their understanding of the laws so they voluntarily comply.

"Overall it will help determine the rates of compliance throughout the basin."

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While in town supporting staff who were testing the new systems and processes for the 30 new NRAR recruits, Mr Barnes also caught up with NSW Irrigators' Council chair Jim Cush at his 'Deer Park' property.

The pair spoke about how water users were getting on with their preparation for the December 1 deadline to comply with new water metering rules.

The deadline for large surface water users with 500mm pumps and higher was extended by a year, as a result of the drought, which left water users unable to test their meters to ensure they were compliant with the new framework.

"That first lot of water users are aware that the regulations have changed and are aware of the changes," Mr Barnes said.

"They're seeking advice on what upgrades may be necessary for their meters and are looking for duly qualified persons to validate their meters. People are also exploring how they might purchase telemetry devices so that the information can be accessed."

Mr Barnes said a majority of water users want to do the right thing, and are appreciative of NRAR's efforts to enforce the law and ensure water is used legally.

"Water users have welcomed a physical presence from NRAR and are appreciative of NRAR officers being out on farm and providing guidance," he said.

"We've been able to show that most users do want to do the right thing and many are. There are some that can struggle but that's largely in part due to the complexity of water legislation.

"There are a small number of water users who think they can take water without getting caught ... but the likelihood that we can detect illegal activity is very high and the consequences are significant.

"When we detect water users are taking water illegally, we will take action and have done with 24 prosecutions since we've come into being."

NRAR began in April 2018 and since then have received more than 3500 reports of suspicious activity and have investigated 2400 cases.

Most recently they've issued 200 penalty infringement notices and 270 formal warnings, which Mr Barnes said shows that the majority of water users are doing the right thing.

He is hopeful that the new Routine Monitoring Program will help provide advice to and guidance to water users to ensure they can be compliant with water legislation.

"Most water users expect a fair and level playing field for all," he said.

For more information about NRAR and what it does, visit industry.nsw.gov.au/nrar.