Council fined for unlawfully taking water

06th Apr 2021

Armidale Regional Council has been issued two penalty notices by the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) for unlawfully taking water between December 2019 and February 2020. The fines totalling $3000 were issued to the council on March 10.
The regulator alleged the council allowed a business in Guyra to take water from two of its test bores without the required Water Access Licence (WAL) or Special Purpose Access Licence (SPAL).
Armidale Regional Council received approval in 2019 to do a test drilling program for groundwater at three sites in Guyra as part of a groundwater supply system to back-up its town water supply.
They carried out investigations and yield testing at the end of which they allowed the tomato farm to take 13 megalitres of water in total from bores at Izzeard Park and Guyra Showground.
NRAR commenced a thorough investigation in July 2020 following a public tip-off. They undertook an investigation into the allegation and later took action to protect the environment and uphold water laws. Water users are required to hold a WAL or a SPAL must do so before they take water.
Armidale Regional Council applied for and was granted an exemption under c39A of the Water Management (General) Regulation 2018 to construct a bore without having to apply for or hold a water supply work approval in January 2020.
When granting the exemption, NRAR informed the council that a WAL or SPAL was required for water taken through the bores. These exemptions only apply to critical water use situations during drought conditions and only to construct test bores.
NRAR said the council breached s60A of the Water Management Act 2000 when it unlawfully took water from bores without holding a WAL or SPAL during the time of the offending.