Irrigator acquitted of meter charge
A prominent NSW irrigator has been acquitted of taking water from the Barwon-Darling system.
Charges were brought against irrigator Peter Harris after serious allegations were raised on ABC’s Four Corners in 2017.
He was convicted on a charge of illegally extracting water for irrigation from the Barwon River in June 2016.
However, he faced a second case, alleging that he operated pumps in 2015 which did not have working water meters.
That case has now failed, after the land and environment court found prosecutors failed to establish all elements of the offence.
Regulatory officers from the NSW Office of Water, visited Harris properties Mercadool and Four G and testified that they had seen meters registering “No Flo”.
Justice Nicola Pain said the law required “that the act of taking the water to be linked in a real and substantive way to the use of (not the mere presence of) the metering equipment that is said to be not operating correctly”.
She said the prosecutor did not prove that meters on the pumps were required by legislation, or that they were being used to measure the take of water.
The Natural Resources Access Regulator’s chief regulatory officer, Grant Barnes, said he was disappointed with the outcome, but respects the court’s decision.
“We are carefully reviewing the judgment and considering our legal options,” he said.