Update deadline for foreign owned water rights

The Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) water rights register requires annual updates and it’s now that time of year again.

Within 30 days of the end of the financial year foreign persons, including temporary residents and foreign non-residents who have invested in registrable water entitlements or contractual water rights in Australia, are required to notify the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) about any changes to their interests

There are potential financial penalties for those foreign persons who do not meet their registration obligations under the Taxation Administration Act 1953.

What is a registrable water entitlement? 

A registrable water entitlement is defined in the Register of Foreign Ownership of Water or Agricultural Land Act 2015 as:

  • An irrigation right relating to a water resource in Australia, being a right a person has against an irrigation infrastructure operator to receive water;
  • A right conferred by or under a law of a state or territory to hold or take water from a water resource in Australia.

What is a contractual water right?

It is a contractual right such as a Lease, including a deed that involves the right that a person or entity holds to another person’s registrable water entitlement. Where a foreign person acquires a contractual water right, it is only registerable if the contracted right is for a period of longer than five years.

When do you need to register?

A foreign person is required to register their interest in a registrable water entitlement or a contractual water right when they:

  • Either acquire a registrable water entitlement or contractual water right; or
  • Become a foreign person while holding a registrable water entitlement or contractual water right; or
  • Hold an existing entitlement or right and there has been a change in the characteristics of it for example, a change in the volume or share of a water resource.

How do you register?

To register you need to complete the Land and Water Registration Form, which is free and accessible online. You will need to provide information including:

  • Ownership details, including nationality and percentage ownership;
  • Water entitlement details, including type and identifier;
  • Water resource type;
  • Flow control;
  • Volume; and
  • Sector and usage details

How can Fox and Thomas help? 

Despite the relatively easy process of registration itself, the identification of interests that need to be registered can be more difficult and requires knowledge of the relevant Acts, regulations and rules. Fox and Thomas can help you identify your registrable water rights and assist in the registration process, please contact a member of our Property Team for more information.