We approach investigations on a case-by-case basis and use our discretion to determine the appropriate response.
We focus on areas where the risk or likelihood of non-compliance is highest and where the potential consequences of non-compliance are most harmful.
It takes technology, diligence and smart data to investigate potential non-compliance.
What prompts an investigation?
Investigations can be prompted by:
- a public tip off via our suspicious activities reporting form
- reports from other agencies
- anomalies uncovered by our audit and spatial teams
- findings from a site visit.
As a risk-based regulator, we prioritise investigating cases with the potential to cause the most harm to the environment or the community.
How are investigations conducted?
Once a matter has been assessed, it’s handed over to an investigator to gather further evidence.
Our investigators have a broad range of powers to enter premises and gather evidence. They can also compel an individual or entity under investigation to provide records and answer questions relating to that investigation.
Satellite and spatial imagery, drones, an acoustic profiler boat and flow meters are just some of the tools in our state-of-the-art technology suite that assist us in our investigations.
We may also conduct additional site inspections to collect physical evidence, interview farm owners and managers, and engage experts to assist.
What happens if a breach is uncovered?
Due to the amount of time it can take to gather and submit evidence, NRAR may put interim measures in place to avoid ongoing harm. This can include a stop work order or a direction to remove a work and this stays in place while the investigation continues.
Where there is evidence of a breach, we decide on an appropriate enforcement action based on:
- the degree of harm posed to the environment, community or individual water users
- the culpability of the offender, which includes looking at their history of non-compliance
- the attitude of the offender and whether they’re willing to cooperate and comply
- the level of public interest.
We respond to breaches of water laws in a number of ways. Rather than simply applying a punishment, our aim is to first ensure that users know the rules and why they’re in place, so they’re more likely to take them seriously and avoid future breaches of the law.