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How to comply

Flood works

Unauthorised flood works may stop water flowing where it should on the floodplain. This can pose a danger to others or damage adjoining properties. It can also negatively impact the environment.

We regulate the use of unauthorised flood works that divert water from important cultural or environmental assets. Unauthorised structures are an enduring  priority for NRAR.

What is a flood work?

A flood work is a barrage, causeway, cutting, embankment, levee, building pad or below ground channel. It is positioned on or near a river, estuary, lake or on a declared floodplain. This is defined in the Water Management Act 2000 No 92 - NSW Legislation.

Flood works may affect the flow and spread of water after heavy rain.

Flood work approvals

Flood works must be approved before construction, modification and use (unless exempt). This is to assess their impact on property, the community, water sources and dependent ecosystems. Other water users must also be properly considered.

How we regulate unauthorised flood works

Under the Water Management Act 2000, any flood work built or modified without an approval, or that does not follow the conditions of an approval, is non-compliant.  Unless it is exempt.

NRAR is a risk-based regulator. We will focus on unauthorised structures that stop water flowing where it needs to go on the floodplain.

We will:

  • work closely with the improving floodplain connections program. Our goal is to bring unapproved flood works in the Northern Basin into compliance with the requirements of floodplain management plans
  • respond to reports of non-compliance from the community or from intelligence led campaigns. We will act when we find unauthorised flood works that divert water from important cultural or environmental assets. This includes flood works that impact community access to water
  • act when approved flood works are constructed or modified in a way that breaches their terms and conditions.

We prioritise unlicensed flood works on floodplains that affect high value ecological, economic or cultural assets. We use data from existing Floodplain Management Plans and surveys conducted during the Healthy Floodplains Program.  We assess the effect of flood works in the landscape using this data.

How we respond to non-compliance

Our response to non-compliance depends on the potential harm to the environment, other landholders and water users.  It also depends on the offender’s culpability, compliance history, and attitude towards non-compliance.

Compliance responses can include:

  • guidance and education
  • advisory letters
  • warnings
  • corrective actions
  • statutory directions
  • stop work orders
  • penalty notices
  • licence suspension/cancellation
  • prosecution.

We are a firm but fair regulator and will consider each case on its merits.

Frequently asked questions about flood works

Are flood works used for floodplain harvesting? 

Flood works serve two main purposes.

  1. to stop water moving into a space, or
  2. to prevent water leaving a space.

In that way, flood works can contribute to floodplain harvesting. There are separate rules that apply to floodplain harvesting.

Read more about our compliance approach to floodplain harvesting.

Why do I need to get authorisation before I construct, modify or use a flood work to divert water from a floodplain? 

Unauthorised structures can divert water from its natural flow on a floodplain. This can have unexpected impacts on adjoining properties and the environment.

For example, if a landholder raises the height of their levee bank without authorisation , the flow of any future flood water becomes unpredictable. This is likely to bring consequences, such as flooding for others.

WaterNSW assesses most flood-work applications in rural and regional NSW. The process includes reviewing potential impacts on neighbouring properties and surrounding areas.

There are some exemptions from needing an approval. Embankments can be built near farm structures, such as dwellings, sheds, or silos. However, they must meet certain conditions.

What is NRAR’s compliance approach to unauthorised flood works during a flood event? 

During a flood NRAR will:

  • assess if the works meet the ‘emergency works exemptions’
  • investigate complaints by assessing flood impacted areas
  • provide local councils and NSW State Emergency Service (SES) with information on approved flood works (levees). This helps them respond to the impact of flood works in the area. And assists them in determining the appropriate action

Will NRAR remove unauthorised flood works during a flood?  

We will work with emergency authorities to take the required action on unauthorised flood works.

Emergency authorities have the power to act. They can remove or remediate levees that may be dangerous to life or property. They can also take action against levees that may interfere with the response of emergency services.

We will continue to investigate complaints relating to unauthorised flood works. We will determine if enforcement action is appropriate on a case-by-case basis. We may undertake site inspections when it is safe for staff to do so.

NRAR will consider issues such as:

  • the impact of the unapproved works on other properties
  • the responsibility of the landholder
  • whether enforcement options are in the public interest.

What do I do if I suspect an unauthorised flood work in my community? 

You can search the NSW Water Register for flood work approvals specific to a particular property.

You can report alleged unlawful or unapproved levees via our hotline 1800 633 362. Or alternatively, submit an online suspicious activity report.

For emergency help in floods and storms, call the NSW State Emergency Service: 132 500

In life threatening situations, call triple zero: 000