• Water Register

    If you’re a foreign person (including a temporary resident or a foreign non-resident) and you plan to invest in Australian water, you may need to register with us your interests in certain water entitlements or contractual water rights. A stocktake period will take place between 1 July 2017 and 30 November 2017.

    Webinars

    We are hosting a series of webinars to provide further information on the Water Register. To register for a webinar, click here.

    Information notes

    There are a number of information notes designed to provide further in-depth information to help you meet your obligations:

    Who must register

    From 1 July 2017 foreign persons are required to register their interests in registrable water entitlements and contractual water rights with us.

    A foreign person is generally:

    • an individual who is not ordinarily resident in Australia
    • a foreign government or foreign government investor
    • a corporation, trustee of a trust or general partner of a limited partnership in which an individual not ordinarily resident in Australia, a foreign corporation or a foreign government, holds a substantial interest of at least 20%, or
    • a corporation, trustee of a trust or general partner of a limited partnership in which two or more persons, each of whom is an individual not ordinarily resident in Australia, a foreign corporation or a foreign government, hold an aggregate substantial interest of at least 40%.

    Water entitlements required to be registered?

    Foreign persons need to register their interests in a ‘registrable water entitlement’ or a ‘contractual water right’. Both of these terms are defined in the Register of Foreign Ownership of Water or Agricultural Land Act 2015.

    Registrable water entitlement

    A ‘registrable water entitlement’ is:

    • an irrigation right – which is a right a person has against an irrigation infrastructure operator (IIO) to receive water (but excludes a water access right or a water delivery right)
    • a right (including an Australian water access entitlement) conferred by or under a law of a State or Territory to do either or both of the following:  
      • to hold water from a water resource in Australia
      • to take water from a water resource in Australia.
       

    A water entitlement given to an irrigator by an IIO is considered an irrigation right and so is a registrable water entitlement.

    The following types of water rights will be excluded from the definition of a registrable water entitlement:

    • stock and domestic rights, and harvestable rights used for stock and domestic purposes
    • riparian rights
    • annual water allocations
    • rights held by an IIO to the extent that either another person holds an irrigation right in relation to that right, or they are for ‘conveyance water’.

    Contractual water right

    A ‘contractual water right’ is defined as a contractual right (including a deed) that a person or other entity holds (alone or jointly) to another person’s ‘registrable water entitlement’.

    A contract between an irrigator and an IIO for a volume of water is an irrigation right and not a contractual water right even though a contract might be involved. The contractual water right is intended to include only those entitlements which are leased or otherwise obtained from a person other than an IIO who holds that water entitlement.

    When to register

    From 1 July 2017 foreign persons are required to register their interests in registrable water entitlements and contractual water rights, and certain changes in those interests with us.

    The stocktake period (1 July 2017 – 30 November 2017)

    The period between 1 July 2017 and 30 November 2017 is a stocktake period and is intended to collect information on the registrable water entitlements and contractual water rights held by foreign persons as at 30 November 2017. Contractual rights will only need to be registered if the term of the contract, including any renewals or extensions at the end of 30 November 2017, will exceed five years.

    This information will form the basis of reports on the foreign ownership of water access entitlements in the future.

    A foreign person who holds a registrable water entitlement or contractual water right during the stocktake period will need to register that interest on or before 30 November 2017, or 30 days after they begin to hold that interest, whichever is later.

    If a foreign person registers their interest during the stocktake period, but then either sells the interest, ceases to be a foreign person or the volume of water registered changes, the foreign person will need to update their registration with us before the later of 1 December 2017 or 30 days after the event.

    After the stocktake period – from 1 December 2017

    Following the stocktake period, a foreign person must notify us of certain events regarding their interests in registrable water entitlements or contractual water rights every year. A foreign person may register at any time during the year (for example, when the event occurs) but no later than 30 days after the end of the financial year in which the event occurred.

    From 1 December 2017, a foreign person will need to register their interest (or update their registration) in a registrable water entitlement or contractual water right with us, when:

    • They acquire a registrable water entitlement or contractual water right under a contract where the term of the contract is likely to exceed five years after the person starts to hold the right
    • They dispose of the registrable water entitlement or contractual water right
    • They become a foreign person while holding a registrable water entitlement or contractual water right under a contract where the term of the contract is likely to exceed five years after the later of the person becoming a foreign person or the time the person started to hold the interest
    • They stop being a foreign person
    • The volume of their registrable water entitlement or contractual water right changes.

    IIO requirements to register

    An irrigation infrastructure operator (IIO) will only be required to register water holdings and interests where:

    • the IIO meets the definition of a foreign person and
    • the IIO holds entitlements to water (or portions of entitlements) that are not subject to irrigation rights or
    • the IIO holds entitlements to water (or portions of entitlements) that are not conveyance water.

    For more information see Who must register.

    Conveyance water

    The volume of water that can be attributed to conveyance water is the additional water that is required to deliver water to users, and includes water lost in transit from its source to end users due to seepage, leakage, evaporation or other similar effects.

    Note that the exemption for conveyance water is only available to IIOs, not to individual entitlement holders.

    Webinars


    We’ll be hosting a series of webinars to educate clients about the Water Register and the role it plays in strengthening Australia’s Foreign Investment Framework.

    Please see dates below. The first two webinars will be for specific audiences:

    Last modified: 19 Jun 2017QC 52589