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Licensing and trade

Reducing red tape for water licences and approvals

Water licensing improvement program to transform water licensing and approvals for water users in NSW.

River Red Gums Eucalyptus camaldulensis on the banks of Murray River, Albury.

Improving water licencing and approvals project

Work is now underway to make water licensing and approvals easier, simpler and clearer for customers.

The NSW Government committed $14.8 million in the 2022-23 Budget to modernise and improve water licensing and approvals through the Water Licensing Improvement Program. The program will deliver an estimated $30.2 million in customer and economic benefits over the life of the program.

The Department of Planning and Environment is working in partnership with WaterNSW and the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) through the Water Licensing Improvement Program, to deliver much-needed improvements to water licensing and approvals for customers.

What will the program deliver for customers?

Each year, over 10,000 water licence and approval transactions take place, and the process is often complex, confusing and time-consuming for farmers and businesses.

The 2-year program will simplify some of the key processes, policies and ICT systems related to water licensing and approvals.

We will deliver improvements for customers and government including:

  • more seamless digital experiences including the ability to track licence applications as they progress through water agencies for advice
  • easier customer access to the information they need to understand their licence or approval conditions
  • reduced customer effort and wait times for water licensing and approvals.

Government made easy

We want to make sure customers receive high-quality, integrated services as seamlessly as possible. The program will streamline the water licensing and approval system for customers and enable greater coordination between relevant government agencies.

Delivering planning improvements

The program is part of NSW Government commitments to deliver a better planning system for NSW including reduced planning assessment timeframes.

We want to reduce licensing red tape to deliver great public benefits to the people of NSW.

Supporting regional productivity

We understand how important water is for regional communities and the program will strengthen the efficiency and sustainability of water use across the state.

By reducing the need to travel for in-person licensing processes, regional customers can enjoy more time with their community and businesses, and less time on paperwork.

Licensing improvements that will be made

We are scoping changes to the licensing processes which have the most potential for improved, modernised customer experience. This includes changes to the processes for:

  • inputs by the department's Water Group to major project development approval assessments and post-approval processes
  • concurrence and referrals
  • water supply works and use approvals
  • updating water access licences in the registry maintained by NSW Land Registry Services (LRS).

Timeline to achieve improvements

We will implement improvements across 3 release stages from mid-2023 to mid-2024. Customer and government testing of improvements related to major project development approval assessments and post-approval processes is set to take place from early 2023.

  1. Release 1 – Mid-2023

    • Simpler and faster inputs by the department’s Water Group to major projects pre- and post- determination management.
    • Improved concurrence and referrals processes including temporary excavation dewatering approvals.
  2. Release 2 – Late 2023

    • Easier water supply works and use approvals and amendments.
    • Faster and easier notification of mandatory changes – water sharing plan changes.
    • Simpler updating of LRS’ Registry of Water Access Licences.
  3. Release 3 – Mid-2024

    • Improved conversion of licences under the Water Act 1912 to Water Management Act 2000.
    • Digital Section 324 notifications.
    • Improved processes for strategic planning (rezonings).

How we will measure benefits to you

We want to deliver benefits that create a positive, measurable impact to the way customers apply for and amend their water licence in NSW.

We will be transparent in our evaluation of the program and how we track and report on customer and government benefits. We will share this evaluation approach on this website in coming months.

Our commitment to keeping our customers informed

We will work with WaterNSW and NRAR to make sure customers are informed of upcoming changes and improvements to water licensing processes and policies, including through existing customer newsletters, online information sessions and this website.

Contact us

For additional information and enquiries please call 1300 081 047 or email waterlicensing.servicedesk@dpie.nsw.gov.au