2023 – Tell Me What You Want – What You Really, Really Want: Feedback from, and to, the NSW Dam Safety Regulator

Inger Shimell, Claire Hendley

People are the critical element in dam safety. Different stakeholders being able to work together, share information and receive and give feedback, leads to improvements in safety, capability of dam owners and operators and compliance with the legislation. Taking this into account, Dams Safety NSW (DSNSW) has reviewed compliance data (collected since its inception in 2019) and reports submitted by NSW declared dam owners. Based on the findings of these reviews, and to assist declared dam owners in achieving full compliance, DSNSW would like to highlight the following parts of declared dam owners’ legislative responsibilities:

Declared dam owners in New South Wales (NSW) must:
(1) put in place a dam safety management system that aligns with AS ISO55001:2014
(2) ensure their emergency plans contain all the elements listed in the dams safety legislation, and review
their plan/s at least annually
(3) have an operations and maintenance plan that contains all the elements listed in the dams safety
legislation, including setting out procedures for normal, abnormal and extreme loading operation conditions. They also need to keep records of activities undertaken under the plan, like maintenance work and repairs.
(4) report on their risk management framework (risk report) on time,thatc ontains all the elements listed in the dams safety legislation, and uses the right methodologies
(5) submit an Annual Dams Safety Standards Report (ADSSR) each year to DSNSW and publish it on their website

Many of these processes may also help with the management of dams that are not declared dams in NSW.

DSNSW seeks feedback from its stakeholders, including declared dam owners, in line with its commitment to engage effectively and follow best practice. Feedback from a recent independent stakeholder engagement survey has revealed that although overall satisfaction with DSNSW is reasonably high amongst declared dam owners that responded to the survey, there is a need to improve engagement with some sectors. Additionally, declared dam owners would like to see DSNSW continue to provide a wide range of resources and information, including guidance and education, and information about past non-compliance and incidents. There is also interest in face-to-face and informal conversations and a more collaborative approach, as well as assisting dam owners to support each other through sharing resources and learnings from past safety incidents.

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