DPIE optimises best-practice management of Snowy Water Licence

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has taken a significant step towards ensuring best-practice management of the Snowy Water Licence after its first 10-year review.

The Snowy Water Licence allows Snowy Hydro Limited, the operator of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, to use water for hydro-electric generation, but balances that use with environmental considerations – including ensuring environmental water flow releases for the benefit of the Snowy River and other waterways in the Snowy Mountains.

The 10-year review, completed in 2018, recommended 23 actions to improve management of the licence.

Ten of these have already been implemented, while 13 are currently underway.

One recommendation – Action 21 – requires the department to seek to apply regulatory best practice to the administration of the Snowy Water Licence.

In order to meet this recommendation, the department launched an independent review of the department’s policies and procedures by an expert panel, to ensure regulatory best practice moving forward.

In March 2021, the department endorsed five recommendations from the panel that will improve transparency and consistency as we continue the ongoing work of regulating the licence.

As a result, the Action 21 best-practice recommendation is now well on its way to being implemented and the department has begun developing tools and resources to ensure it is met.

“We’re optimising processes to ensure best practice management of the Snowy Water Licence,” DPIE Water Chief Operating Officer Graham Attenborough said.

“Public confidence in water operation of the Snowy scheme is paramount; it’s also critical to have strong and reliable resourcing and processes for consistent and transparent regulation.

“The recommendations from the independent panel are consistent with regulatory best practices already in use across other areas of the NSW Government and we’re working now to implement them for management of the Snowy Water Licence.”

Overall, the panel made five recommendations to help the department improve internal controls and governance, in turn delivering regulatory best practice.

They will focus on:

  • aligning our practices and governance, as well as implementing an internal restructure in-line with the new governance arrangements proposed in the 10-year review
  • strengthening our routine and risk-based monitoring
  • expanding the set of regulatory tools we use within the existing legislation and regulatory framework
  • improving the way we conduct audits, write reports and describe evidence and non-compliances
  • improving internal practices to achieve greater consistency in both audit approach and decision making
  • becoming more transparent in identifying areas of risk and providing guidance that will support Snowy Hydro

“We’ve started a program of work to meet the recommendations and adjust our regulatory culture, approach and practices.

“Implementation of the recommendations will occur through a staged approach. Some areas identified for improvement can be progressed right away, while others will take time and require close engagement with internal and external agencies,” said Mr Attenborough.

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