The Australia Government has introduced a new Foreign Ownership of Water Register.
Any foreign person (including a temporary resident or a foreign non-resident) must register their interest in the following with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO):
- Registrable water entitlement; and
- Contractual water right.
The interest must be registered before 30 November 2017 (stocktake period).
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 where an individual is not ordinarily resident in Australia, foreign corporation or foreign government holding a substantial interest of at least 20%;
- A corporate trustee of a trust or general partnership of a limited partnership in which two or more persons hold an aggregate substantial interest of at least 40%.
A registrable water entitlement is:
- An irrigation right;
- A right to hold water from a water resource in Australia;
- A right to take water from a water resource in Australia;
- A contract with an Irrigation Infrastructure Operator allowing an irrigator to take water; and
- includes a water licence, water access licence and water allocation.
A contractual water right is an agreement or deed that entitles a person to take the water from another person’s registrable water entitlement, and includes:
- a lease;
- a term transfer;
- another form of water supply agreement;.
Contractual water rights need only be registered if the term (including any option) exceeds five years.
The following water rights are not required to be registered:
- stock and domestic rights, and harvestable rights used for stock and domestic purposes
- riparian rights
- annual water allocations
From 1 December 2017, a foreign person must register their interest, within 30 days of the end of the final year in which the relevant event happened, if:
- They acquire or dispose of a registrable water entitlement or contractual water right
- They become a foreign person while holding a registrable water entitlement or contractual water right
- They stop being a foreign person
- The volume of their registrable water entitlement or contractual water right changes.
If you have any queries regarding the new register or require assistance to register, please contact Michael Cowley or Jo Thompson or visit https://www.ato.gov.au/General/Foreign-investment-in-Australia/Water-register/?=redirected