Water fine upheld

An $18,000 fine for exceeding water usage has been upheld by the State Government,                    leaving Clare Valley Racing Club (CVRC) to foot the bill.

With its main event for the year, the Clare Easter Races, cancelled due to State Government COVID-19 restrictions, the club had been hopeful its application to have the fine waived would be approved.

However, the club was notified last week by Minister for Environment and Water David Speirs the fine would stand.

In his letter to CVRC, Minister Speirs said he had considered his department’s assessment and reviewed CVRC’s request under the waiver criteria, finding it was not applicable to “write off or waive all or part of the penalty.”

“There is no moral obligation on the state to extinguish the debt, the debt is recoverable and the amount of water taken is not in dispute. As such, the penalty charge is considered payable in full,” the Minister wrote.

Minister Speirs went on to say that despite the State Government having a policy of “reducing costs for customers, including not-for-profit activities that encourage the use of public and community spaces, this does not extend to penalties incurred for non-compliance with the law.”

Despite being re-allocated an additional 12,000 kilolitres of water in February this year in order to be able to maintain its facilities to industry standard to host race events, CVRC had exceeded its water allocation previously in 2018-19.

Minister Speirs told the Plains Producer on Monday he had been working with CVRC and had “pleasingly” been able to assist with the additional water allocation.

“This is an excellent outcome and provides a long-term solution for the racing club’s water situation,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the Clare Valley Racing Club has exceeded its available water allocation for seven of the past nine years which is unacceptable and must be penalised.

“Water allocations are in place to ensure water resources across South Australia can be sustainably managed.

“Excess water use puts the environment and all water users sharing the resource at risk and it is important penalties are applied consistently across the state to ensure it doesn’t happen.”

CVRC secretary Tanya Bertelsmeier previously said the club had been caught between a rock and a hard place – if it had not used the water, it would not have been able to meet racing industry requirements and therefore not been able to host any race meets.

CVRC was recently awarded a $5000 Regional Events Grant Fund, through the South Australian Tourism Commission to assist following the COVID-19 cancellation of the Easter Races meet.

The community has also rallied behind the club, with just over $1000 in donations and forward membership payments in recent weeks, DPR insurance brokers have offered to pay the club’s phone accounts up until next Easter and Taylors Wines and Jim Barry Wines have honoured their major sponsorship deals for this season.

However, news that the $18,000 excessive water use fine was still payable could not have come at a worse time for the not-for-profit club.

Mrs Bertelsmeier was contacted by the Plains Producer but she said she was unable to comment on the unfavourable outcome of the request to waive the fine.