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NSW water theft probe reveals misconduct

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September 12, 2017

State Labor has called for NSW Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair to step down.

NSW's top water bureaucrat Gavin Hanlon is facing charges of misconduct after after an interim report into allegations of water theft in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Investigated by former head of the National Water Commission, Ken Matthews, the report follows an ABC Four Corners program in July which revealed allegations that Mr Hanlon - who has now been stood down - helped rort the water system.

The report, released on Monday, found an urgent fix is needed in NSW to repair an "ineffectual" water-compliance and enforcement system with little transparency.

NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley says the report reveals a "deliberate industrial scale theft of water" in which a "blind eye was turned" by the National Party's administration.

Mr Foley called on the Nationals to be stripped of the water portfolio and insisted Regional Water Minister and deputy leader of the Nationals, Niall Blair be removed from his position.

This was backed by the NSW Greens with spokesman Jeremy Buckingham saying it's a conflict of interest for the Nationals to be in charge of water as the party accepts political donations from irrigators.

However, Mr Blair refused to address whether the Nationals face a moral conflict of interest but admitted water compliance in NSW had been an issue for "decades".

Along with Mr Matthews' probe, the allegations of water theft had been referred to the state's Independent Commission Against Corruption.

To date, there are five separate inquiries or reviews that have been proposed, launched, or widened to address issues raised in the Four Corners program.

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