Moama landholder and company fined $38,000 after guilty pleas

A Moama landholder and a company they contracted to build unlawful structures on the Murray River have been fined a total of $38,000 after pleading guilty in the Deniliquin Local Court in a case brought by the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR).

Kirsty Ruddock, NRAR’s Director Water Enforcement Taskforce, said the regulator is pleased the defendants entered guilty pleas for breaching the Water Management Act 2000 (WM Act).

“We’re glad both defendants accepted responsibility for their actions. We have accepted the mandate given to us by the people of NSW to ensure the water laws are enforced in the event of willful, substantial and serious non-compliance,” Ms Ruddock said.

The landholder pleaded guilty in the local court to:

  • two charges under section 91E(2) of the WM Act for depositing material to form an earthen terrace, an overbank access ramp and constructing a retaining wall that were not approved in a controlled activity approval. These offences took place between January 2016 and June 2017 and again in September 2017 and March 2019.
  • Two charges under section 91G(2) of the WM Act for failing to comply with the conditions of their controlled activity approval by building the retaining wall outside of approved plans and failing to revegetate areas, in accordance with the approval. One breach took place between November 2017 and March 2019 while the other offence took place in November 2017 and again in May 2019.
  • One count against section 336C(1) of the WM Act for failing to remove unauthorised works from the site. This offence occurred between May 2018 and December 2019.

The contracted company pleaded guilty to one count against section 91G(1) of the WM Act for breaching the conditions of an approval by misaligning a retaining wall and depositing additional backfill in breach of the approved plans, between November 2017 and March 2019.

In sentencing, Magistrate Love found the offending to be in “clear defiance of the approval process”.

“The court’s message is that those wishing to develop natural resources, such as the Murray River, must obtain the appropriate approvals and comply with directions. If they do not, substantial penalties will apply, and rectification will be an order of the court to return the natural resource to its natural possession.”

The property owner was fined $27,000 and ordered to pay legal costs in the sum of $11,000. The contractor was fined $11,000 and ordered to pay legal costs in the sum of $9,000. Both defendants received a 25 per cent discount on the fines for pleading guilty.

Both parties have agreed to remove the unauthorised works, an overbank access ramp and concrete pad, and to revegetate the site.

“All property owners, contractors and water users should be aware of the serious consequences of committing offences against our state’s water laws,” Ms Ruddock said.

“We have ongoing auditing and investigations to ensure activities affecting rivers and streams, as well as ensuring the extraction of water, are authorised.”

To see the work NRAR does, visit the NRAR website at industry.nsw.gov.au/nrar. Go to ‘Reports and data’, then ‘NRAR Public Register’.

To make a confidential report on suspected water misuse, visit NRAR’s website at dpie.nsw.gov.au/nrar-suspicious-activity-report.

NRAR Car out in regional NSWNRAR Car out in regional NSW.

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