Alleged water theft from Barwon-Darling River, summons served to Peter Harris

Moree cotton farmer and irrigator Peter Harris received a summons demanding the return of more than five billion litres of water after alleged water theft from the Barwon-Darling River.  The summons was served to Peter James Harris and Jane Maree Harris, and the matter will go to court on December 8.

The Land and Environment Court, the plaintiffs, are calling for “the return of water, up to the equivalent of the total volume ... (to) occur immediately after the water is extracted from the water source and has passed through metering equipment” to measure it, but before it is stored.

There are calls for Mr Harris to forfeit his entitlement to the equivalent amount of five billion litres of water in the future so that the river can be replenished. The alleged water theft concerns a huge amount – enough to fill more than 2000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. 

Office chief executive David Morris explained the legal move, stating that it was taking place because the NSW government was not moving quickly enough to penalise Mr Harris. He had not received adequate response from state authorities in previous correspondence on the matter.

Mr Harris issued a statement confirming receiving the summons. He stated that he looks “forward to an opportunity to vigorously defend these baseless allegations in a legitimately constituted forum where the rule of law applies. We maintain we have at all times fully complied with our ­obligations under our Water ­Access Licences and have nothing to hide.”