THE water watchdog has charged two companies across the New England North West with offences, claiming they've been involved in water thefts or unlawful drilling.
The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) has launched legal proceedings in the NSW Land and Environment Court, as well as Tenterfield Local Court in one of the biggest cases the regulator has initiated.
A Moree-based irrigation company stands accused of 43 charges for water breaches of the state's laws between 2016 and 2018, and if found guilty, faces penalties of more than $1 million for each charge.
NRAR alleges the irrigation company took water while metering equipment was not working properly; constructed an unlawful dam, and then used the dam without proper approval. It also claims the company took water it was not licensed or authorised to.
NRAR will allege in court the company took 600 megalitres of water over its licence allocation between February 2016 and June 2018, in a direct breach of the Water Management Act.
In addition, the company is also accused of taking 1200 megalitres of water in excess of the licence allocation.
The case is set down for its first mention in the NSW Land and Environment Court in Sydney in mid-June and is the largest prosecution the water watchdog has initiated in its three years of operation.
A Queensland-based earthmoving company will have to front Tenterfield Local Court next month, accused of building an illegal bore two years ago.
NRAR claims the company constructed the unlawful bore in March 2019 before a Border Rivers landholder allegedly took water unlawfully between July and August that same year.
NRAR said a landowner connected to the company also faces three charges for allegedly using the unlawful bore without the proper approvals to take water, or to capture and store it.
The matter will be heard in Tenterfield court in June.
Two Griffith-based water users are also being taken to court at the same time by NRAR. The water watchdog said the cases were the result of lengthy investigations.
"We're tackling alleged water breaches with vigorous investigations both on the ground and in the sky. These prosecutions are a credit to the tireless efforts of our team and our use of innovative technology," NRAR's chief regulatory officer Grant Barnes said.
"We have accepted the mandate we were given to ensure the NSW water laws are followed and we will not shy away from prosecuting wrongdoers in the event of serious and willful non-compliance."
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