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Irrigators fined for illegal water take

The downstream Bourke gauge height for the Beemery irrigation licences has been a matter for dispute over many years. Photo Twh

Local cotton farming couple Peter and Jane Harris have been fined $60,000 for illegally pumping water at their ‘Beemery’ property between Bourke and Brewarrina.

The couple were found to have taken 1,896 megalitres of water from the Barwon River for their crops over six days in June 2016 when pumping was forbidden.

In a judgement published by the Land and Environment Court last week, Peter and Jane Harris were ordered to pay WaterNSW’s legal costs of almost $450,000 for a case that has dragged on for five years.

The pair had pleaded not guilty, arguing that they we not aware of a ‘downstream’ rule which prohibited them from pumping when the flow in the Darling River at Bourke was below 4,894 megalitres per day.

Industry insiders said a lack of clarification about the rules applying to the Beemery irrigation licences had existed for years.Sentencing in the case was delayed because the Harris’s had unsuccessfully appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeal and then sought leave to appeal that decision to the High Court, which was denied. […]

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