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NSW metering policy not holding water: plans to meter all water pumping in NSW float away as deadline once again not met

1st June 2023 

NSW metering policy not holding water: plans to meter all water pumping in NSW float away as deadline once again not met 

As the June 1 deadline arrives, the Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales (NCC), the state’s leading environmental advocacy organisation, wishes to highlight that NSW irrigation metering reforms have again failed to be implemented.  

The mandatory date for irrigators in the Murray and Murrumbidgee to have compliant metering equipment installed is June 1st, extended from January because of the impact of the floods.  

According to Board notes from the Natural Resource Access Regulator (NRAR) there is a ‘widening gap between policy aspiration and program implementation1. 

“This basically means that the regulator is saying that despite all the delays, they have been unwilling or unable to secure even the most basic oversight into how much water is being sucked from our rivers by corporate irrigators.” Mel Gray, Water Campaigner with NCC said today 

"How can we expect to sustainably and fairly manage our water resources when we can’t even get irrigators to measure how much water they are taking” Gray Continued.   

Adding to concerns about the adequacy of legislation to protect rivers from over extraction and water theft, the Inspector General of Water Compliance Troy Grant said in Senate Estimates last Friday that the legislation was rubbish, that it had so many loopholes that an irrigator "would have to be a moron" to get caught stealing water.  

Grant said his investigations team currently has 21 open investigations, and since February they have closed 62 investigations. “The reason they’ve closed is that the legislation is rubbish” he said. 

Statements attributable to NCC Water Campaigner Mel Gray: 

“The sad thing is that this is consistent with what we've seen across NSW. The deadline for metering the largest pumps in the Northern Basin was 18 months ago, and about 30% of pumps in that category still don’t have compliant metering and telemetry installed.” 

“There are already too many loopholes in NSW’s metering policy. For example, pumps under 100mm diameter not required to have metering fitted at all, regardless of how many pumps are installed in a given water source.”  

“We are also deeply concerned by the Department’s ‘review of the underlying regulation to alleviate constraints’ which may indicate they are considering weakening the standards to allow irrigators to use telemetry equipment (devices that send real time data to the department) that isn't accredited.”

“The underlying problem with water management in NSW is that the Department don’t accept their duty under the law to prioritise the environment, as identified by the Independent Commission Against Corruption in 2020.”2   

“We welcome the initial steps the new Minister for Water Rose Jackson has taken, but it looks like there is still a culture of prioritising industry over the environment and downstream communities throughout the Department, and it is important this is dealt with.” 

1: https://www.nrar.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/560243/NRAR-Board-meeting-minutes-March-2023.pdf 

2: Investigation into complaints of corruption in the management of water in NSW and systemic non-compliance with the Water Management Act 2000 page 21 

 

Statement ends 

Media contact: Clancy Barnard 

E: [email protected]  Ph: 0438 869 332 

Note: NCC Water Campaigner Mel Gray is available for comment on request 

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