Water licences FOI win - EDO NSW

Water licence accounts released in FOI win

After a two-year freedom of information battle, Environmental Defenders Office NSW has finally obtained documents relating to a major Barwon-Darling Basin irrigator’s water licence accounts.

7 December 2018: The documents are the NSW Government’s own accounting records of how much water was allocated to each licence and how water was taken under each licence, in the years from 2014/15 to 2016/17.

We first applied for the information, on behalf of our client the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), in December 2016. At first, the relevant NSW Government agency, WaterNSW, refused access to the information. However, after we commenced proceedings in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) seeking to have that refusal overturned, WaterNSW changed its decision and agreed to release the information in full in late 2017.

Following that, the licence holders commenced their own NCAT proceedings seeking to block WaterNSW from releasing the information to the public. However, just two days before the NCAT hearing was due in late November 2018, the proceedings were withdrawn by the licence holders without explanation. This meant that WaterNSW was free to release the documents to ACF and to the public.

This is a major win for the public’s right to know how the NSW Government accounts for the use of water, our most vital natural resource. Transparency is key to public confidence in the regulatory system governing water access and use in the whole Murray-Darling Basin.

Case page about the NCAT proceedings: ACF application to WaterNSW