A report released by the state's Auditor-General Margaret Crawford has slammed the NSW government's management of town water infrastructure, following the 2019-2020 drought.
The audit found the state department had not "effectively supported or overseen town water infrastructure planning since at least 2014" and "lacked a strategic, evidence-based approach to target investments in town water infrastructure".
In September 2019, the government warned it would intervene if Dubbo Regional Council didn't have the capabilities to ensure the water keeps flowing to the city after Burrendong Dam runs dry.
The 'day-zero' date at the time was marked for mid-2020, and regional councils, including Dubbo, had been criticised for their management of the water situation.
Following the release of the report on Thursday, Dubbo Regional Council mayor Ben Shields said he welcomed the findings.
In June the government had allocated Dubbo Regional Council $30 million for council to investigate and secure alternative water supplies via new bore fields.
Cr Shields said "while the funding was welcomed, it was state bureaucracy that was stalling key things, like: state planning, water rights and access, access to land, drilling access and approvals, approvals for various compulsory state governed permits, and a healthy dose of confused chaos among state departments about who was actually responsible for what?
"Yet, among all the hyperbole, grandstanding, sabre rattling and finger pointing that rained down on council, the real culprit is the very authority charged with making sure water infrastructure is well-planned, implemented and fit for human health."
The Support for Regional Town Water Infrastructure report says "a continued focus on coordinating town water planning, investments and sector engagement is needed for the department to more effectively support, plan for and fund town water infrastructure, and work with Local Water Utilities to help avoid future shortages of safe water in regional towns and cities".
The report recommended that by October 2021 the Department should improve a long list of practices including data collection, regulation, coordination and administration of local water utilities. It also recommended better interagency coordination, better governance arrangements, better transparency and the state better consult with local government, which often owns and operates local water utilities.
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