Cot­ton grower pleads guilty to il­le­gal water pump­ing

Shepparton News - Country News - - NEWS -

A NSW cot­ton grower has pleaded guilty to il­le­gally pump­ing water out of the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin, a year after con­cerns about water theft in the state were raised.

An­thony Bar­low plead guilty to pump­ing dur­ing an em­bargo and while me­ter­ing equip­ment was not work­ing in the Land and En­vi­ron­ment Court in Syd­ney on Novem­ber 26.

NSW Re­gional Water Min­is­ter Niall Blair wel­comed the guilty plea and said there was no place for water thieves in the state.

‘‘No-one is above the law and any­one who thinks they can il­le­gally take our most pre­cious re­source will be held to ac­count,’’ Mr Blair said.

‘‘Twelve months ago we be­gan the nec­es­sary steps to re­form water man­age­ment in NSW and make sure every­one had ac­cess to a fair and eq­ui­table sys­tem.

‘‘We will con­tinue to en­sure that all water users — whether they’re small or large, at the top or bot­tom of the sys­tem — know that their right to this crit­i­cal as­set is pro­tected.’’

The NSW Ir­ri­ga­tors’ Coun­cil said it sup­ported a strong com­pli­ance regime and ir­ri­ga­tors had been pay­ing for com­pli­ance for many years through their fees to the NSW Gov­ern­ment.

‘‘There are over 12 000 ir­ri­ga­tors in NSW. To­day’s guilty plea by Mr Bar­low ap­plies to his ac­tions, it is not about those 12 000 ir­ri­ga­tors that con­tinue to do the right thing,’’ the group said.

This year the NSW Gov­ern­ment estab­lished the Nat­u­ral Re­sources Ac­cess Reg­u­la­tor as well as stronger me­ter­ing reg­u­la­tions, which will start this month.

The in­de­pen­dent NSW water reg­u­la­tor has in­ves­ti­gated al­most 350 hot­line re­ports dur­ing their first 200 days, with 172 sites in­spected, 15 penalty no­tices is­sued and five pros­e­cu­tions lodged.

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