Compliance and enforcement of water licences in NSW: Limitations in law, policy and institutions

Darren Sinclair, Cameron Holley

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Major water policy reforms in Australia have ushered in a system of water rights, water planning, and cap and trade markets. As with any regulatory system, the success of these reforms is ultimately dependent on compliance and enforcement to ensure equitable sharing of water resources to minimise water theft and secure the integrity of traded water entitlements and allocations. Despite its centrality to successful water governance, to date, compliance and enforcement has remained largely overlooked in the water law and policy literature. This is particularly the case in relation to the regulation of groundwater. In response, this study sheds light on State compliance and enforcement practices, with a particular emphasis on the groundwater context. Drawing on 25 in-depth interviews with government inspectors and managers, water users and water delivery operators, the article examines the successes and weaknesses of compliance and enforcement practices, and identifies lessons for both policy makers and the literature. The analysis reveals that governments often struggle to provide an effective and comprehensive compliance and enforcement regime for water. A series of recommendations are made around eight key themes, including communication and education, prosecution, enforcement options, enforcement strategies, data management, cultural change, monitoring technologies, and resourcing. The article also reflects on the broader regulatory and policy implications of the study's findings regarding the future of compliance and enforcement in Australian water management.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)149-189
    JournalAustralasian Journal of Natural Resources Law and Policy
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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