TWO LOCAL farmers who were accused of taking water illegally have been cleared after the charges against them were dismissed in a Tamworth court.
Melissa-Anne Close and Malcolm William Carter faced a combined 20 charges related to taking water outside the conditions of their license, and were found not guilty at a hearing over several days in Tamworth Local Court.
The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) brought the case against the pair in early 2020, but after hearing the evidence in the cases, magistrate Julie Soars found them not guilty on all allegations.
In court, Ms Close and Mr Carter had denied 10 charges each of licensee contravene a term or condition of an access licence.
The pair were accused of taking water from the Namoi River near Manilla in 2018 by the independent water watchdog, who alleged the non-compliance took place on two properties across a three-month period.
NRAR had previously claimed in its case there was evidence that the landowners had taken water outside the conditions of their water access license, an NRAR spokeswoman confirmed to the Leader.
"As the state's independent water regulator, NRAR is responsible for ensuring water users comply with the Water Management Act 2000 in relation to flow conditions set out in a water access license," the spokeswoman said.
"NRAR presented evidence in the form of photographs to Tamworth Local Court of the Manilla weir that showed no flow at the relevant times the landowners recorded water take in their logbooks.
"The magistrate determined those photographs did not prove the matter beyond a reasonable doubt, because the company who took them was in liquidation and the camera used to take the photographs had not been audited.
"NRAR is reviewing the judgement and considering its implications."
The organisation has 28 days from the determination of the court case to file any appeal, if it proceeds.
Any appeal would be heard in the NSW District Court.
After the hearing, Ms Soars refused an application for costs in the matter.
NRAR said despite the outcome, the regulator will continue its work to uphold water audits and compliance across the state.
The water watchdog uses state of the art technology as a part of its monitoring.