National register of foreign ownership of water entitlements

From 1 July 2017, foreign persons (as defined in the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 and the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Regulations 2015) must register their water entitlement holdings and contractual water rights with the Australian Taxation Office.

All foreign persons with registrable water entitlements have until the 30 November 2017 to register their details. The period between 1 July 2017 and 30 November 2017 will serve to compile a stocktake of foreign ownership of water entitlements.

After the stocktake, foreign persons must update their water entitlement information by the end of July each year. The Australian Taxation Office will analyse the data and prepare annual reports.

The aim of the register is to increase transparency about the level of foreign ownership of water entitlements. It will help inform the government and the community about emerging investment trends. No personal or commercially sensitive information will be reported publically, only aggregate information.

How do I find more about this register?

Three commonwealth agencies have been involved in the development of this register. The Treasury is the agency responsible for the legislation, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is the administering agency, and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources provides water policy assistance.

Guidance material has been developed to assist individuals and companies likely to be affected by the legislation. This information can be found at the Australian Taxation Office.

The guidance material includes examples to explain:

  • What entitlements need to be registered
  • Who needs to register
  • When registration is required, and
  • Special information for irrigation infrastructure operators.

The ATO will host a series of webinars to provide information about the new register and to help foreign persons fulfil the registration requirements. Participants can have their questions answered online in the webinar. Two initial webinars are scheduled for 21 June and 28 June at 10:30am (AEST). The ATO will publically advertise these seminars. Further details including additional webinar dates are available at Australian Taxation Office.

The ATO will actively promote the new water register, including placing notices in water service providers’ websites and mailing potentially affected people to alert them to the existence of the new legislation and make them aware of the registration obligations.