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What we do

Licensing and approvals

Licensing and approvals teams

NRAR’s Licensing and Approvals teams only issue water access licences (and approvals needed with those licences) for:

  • government agencies
  • state-owned corporations
  • major water utilities, water supply authorities and licensed network operators
  • mines
  • irrigation corporations
  • public schools and public hospitals
  • Aboriginal commercial, community or environmental entities
  • state significant developments and state significant infrastructure.

WaterNSW is responsible for water access licences and approvals for rural landholders, rural industries and developments which are not deemed state-significant, which means it issues the vast majority of water access licences and approvals in NSW.


NRAR’s L&A team is responsible for issuing all controlled activity approvals in NSW. Controlled activities are works on waterfront land and you must receive a controlled activity approval before starting any work in, on or beside rivers, lakes or estuaries (unless an exemption applies). See our controlled activities page.

NRAR also issues any water supply work, flood work and water use approvals required in association with licences it issues to the larger water users listed above.

How the teams are organised

NRAR’s L&A team currently has 20 staff across three teams: L&A East, L&A West and the Central team. Staff are mainly water regulation officers and project officers.

L&A Central staff are the ‘engine room’, undertaking critical triage work to prioritise the workload. They assign the medium to high-risk cases to L&A East and West, and assess and issue the low-risk applications and referrals themselves. They also answer enquiries and arrange advertising of those applications that need it.

L&A East and L&A West staff’s work includes:

  • assessing and issuing the higher-risk applications, approvals, and referrals from councils
  • assessing and providing advice to the Minister for Planning on state significant development and state significant infrastructure proposals
  • providing technical advice to NRAR’s Investigations and Enforcement team and government departments
  • releasing bonds for controlled activities that have been carried out according to their approvals
  • meeting with water authorities, councils, industry bodies, government departments and water users at field days, to provide advice on licensing and approval rules
  • answering enquiries.

Where are L&A staff located?

L&A staff work in offices across the state. They are currently located in Murwillumbah, Newcastle, Parramatta, Wollongong, Nowra, Dubbo, Wellington, Tamworth, Albury, and Deniliquin.