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Water Licensing Improvement Program

Learn how the NSW Government is making the water licensing and approvals process easier by reducing red tape.

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

About reducing red tape

Improvement program to help make water licensing and approvals easier, simpler, and clearer for customers.

Water Licensing Improvement Program

The NSW Government has committed $14.8 million to the 2022-23 budget to modernise and improve water licensing and approvals through the Water Licensing Improvement Program.

The department 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 the program delivers for customers

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

This 2-year program will simplify some of the key processes, policies and technology systems related to water licensing and approvals, through:

Government made easy

The program is contributing to a modern government by streamlining the water licensing and approval system, ensuring a smoother customer experience, and improved coordination between government agencies involved.

Reduced timeframes 

The program is a vital component of the NSW Government’s commitment to deliver a better planning system and reduced timeframes for planning assessments.

Our aim is to simplify the licensing process and minimise red tape, leading to great public benefits for the people of NSW.

Supporting regional productivity 

We recognise the significance of water for regional communities, and this program aims to streamline access to licensing services.

By minimising the need for in-person processes, customers in rural areas will have more time to spend with their communities and businesses, and less time on paperwork.

Licensing improvements

As part of this two-year initiative, we are working to deliver changes to the licensing and approval processes which have the most potential for an improved and modernised customer experience. From mid-2022 to mid-2024 the program will focus on improving several water licensing and approvals related activities including:

  • inputs by the department’s Water Group at the pre-determination and post-approval stages for major projects
  • development applications referred by local councils that require concurrence, approval or advice from the department’s Water Group
  • water supply work and water use approvals and amendments
  • licences and approvals for construction activities where excavation works intercept an underground aquifer and groundwater needs to be removed temporarily
  • advice on water-related matters for strategic planning proposals and land rezonings.

A single point of online entry for NSW water licensing and approvals customers is also being delivered through the program, which will provide a more customer-friendly experience from mid-2024.

Program status

Through June and July 2023, the program’s first round of improvements were switched on for customers – including new features in the NSW Planning Portal that now mean:

  • major project customers can communicate with the department’s Water Group about post-approval requirements via the portal
  • local councils are able to view the status of Water Group’s progress in assessing integrated development applications referred to it for concurrence or approval within the portal.

Along with delivering a quicker, clearer and easier way to communicate and receive up-to-date information, these improvements will provide customers with greater transparency and more timely responses.

Updated guides for major project customers and councils on the new functions are available in the Major Projects Help and Council Resources sections of the Planning Portal’s Help and Training area.

Several ‘back office’ process improvements have also been delivered within the program’s first year to help provide an enhanced ‘front of house’ experience for customers. This includes enhancements to the department’s Planning Portal so Water Group staff can better triage and assess integrated development applications referred from local councils and manage required inputs at the pre-determination and post-approval stages for major projects.

Work is well underway on the program’s second and final year, with scoping of improvements that can be delivered by mid-2024 and development of a single online entry point for all water licensing and approvals information and transactions.

Measuring benefits for customers

Our goal is to make a tangible and positive difference for customers when applying for and managing water licenses and approvals.

The NSW government is committed to transparency, so within the upcoming months, we will be sharing how we measure the benefits of this program and its results.

Keeping customers informed

The Water Group will collaborate with WaterNSW and NRAR to ensure customers are kept up to date on upcoming changes and improvements to the water licensing processes and policies. This will be done through existing customer newsletters, online information sessions, and updates on this website.

Contact us

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

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