Australia: New National Register of Foreign Ownership of Water Entitlements - have your say

If you are a foreign person, or entering into a transaction with a foreign person involving relevant water rights, the proposed Water Register will affect you.

If you are a foreign person who holds, or will hold, a "registrable water entitlement" or a "contractual water right", it is likely that from 1 July 2017 you will have to register it with the Australian Taxation Office.

On 24 August 2016, the Federal Government released an exposure draft Bill to amend the Register of Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land Act 2015 and establish a national register of foreign ownership of water entitlements.

The Government's aim is to enhance transparency of the level of foreign ownership of water entitlements in Australia, inform it and the community about emerging investment trends, and improve the information for future policy development.

Unlike the Agricultural Land Register, the Water Register would capture all industry sectors, not just water used for agricultural purposes.

Why the Government is creating a Water Register

The Government's new foreign investment laws came into force on 1 December 2015 and established a modernised framework for the assessment of foreign investment in Australia. Part of the reforms included the establishment of the Water Register.

While the States and Territories are already responsible for maintaining a number of water related registers, the only official source of national data on foreign investment in water is the Agricultural Land and Water Ownership survey, managed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The Government undertook initial consultation in February 2016, seeking views on the establishment of the Water Register. Submissions and comments indicated that stakeholders (including the Queensland State Government and the Northern Territory Government) generally welcomed the reform.

Who needs to register?

The concept of a "foreign person" is central to the obligation to register. A foreign person is:

  • an individual that 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 not ordinarily resident in Australia, foreign corporation or foreign government holds a substantial interest of at least 20%; or
  • a corporation, trustee of a trust or general partner of a limited partnership in which two or more foreign persons hold an aggregate substantial interest of at least 40%.

Irrigation Infrastructure Operators will only be required to register their interest where they are a "foreign person" and hold registrable water entitlements that are not subject to irrigation rights.

What types of water entitlements need to be registered?

Foreign persons will need to register their interests in a "registrable water entitlement" or a "contractual water right".

A "registrable water entitlement" will be defined as:

  • an irrigation right – as defined in the Water Act 2007;
  • a right (including an Australian water access entitlement as defined) conferred by or under a law of a State or Territory to:
  • hold water from a water resource in Australia; and/or
  • take water from a water resource in Australia.

The following types of water rights would be excluded:

  • stock and domestic rights;
  • annual water allocations; or
  • riparian rights.

A "contractual water right" of a person will be defined as a contractual right (including a deed) that the person holds (alone or jointly) to another person's "registrable water entitlement".

What needs to be registered?

There are a number of events which trigger the requirement to register. The relevant events are when a foreign person:

  • starts to hold or ceases to hold a "registrable water entitlement" or "contractual water right" where the remaining term is reasonably likely to exceed five years;
  • becomes or ceases to be a "foreign person," while holding a "registrable water entitlement" or "contractual water right";
  • holds a right that starts or ceases to meet the definition of a "registrable water entitlement" or "contractual water right"; or
  • holds an interest in a "registrable water entitlement" or "contractual water right" where there is a change to the volume of the water (or other stated characteristic) referred to in the "registrable water entitlement" or "contractual water right".

When (and how) you can register your water interests

Registration is done by giving the Commissioner notice in the approved form (which is yet to be released).

A stocktake period is planned for 1 July-1 December 2017, allowing foreign owners six months to register and providing a baseline against which changing levels of ownership can then be assessed.

From 1 December 2017, foreign persons will have 30 days after any changes to their water-related holdings to notify the Commissioner.

What happens if I don't register my water interests?

The Commissioner will be able to assess whether foreign owners are complying with the registration obligations through a number of information requirements (including an offshore information notice) provided for under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 (Cth) and the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (Cth). The consequences of failing to comply with these requirements are dealt with under those Acts.

Getting ready for the Water Register

If you are a foreign person or are proposing to enter into a transaction with a foreign person involving relevant water rights, you should be aware of the proposed Water Register, and factor in registration requirements.

It should however be remembered that currently all we have is an exposure draft of the Bill, which might change when it is introduced into Parliament. Additionally, the Minister may make rules to implement certain aspects of the Water Register, which may contain exemptions from the obligation to register. In short, while we know the broad shape of the proposed new regime, the finer detail is yet to be confirmed.

Interested parties have been invited to comment on the draft Register of Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land Amendment (Water) Bill 2016 by Thursday 8 September 2016. If you are interested in making a submission, or would like further information, please contact us.

Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin. Persons listed may not be admitted in all states and territories.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.