Keywords: Water Act – s. 24(1), 45; Water Regulation – s. 7(3); Debts and Obligations Regulation, Financial Administration Act – s. 4; licence abandonment; application for apportionment
Dalton Jones appealed a decision of the Comptroller of Water Rights to confirm Mr. Jones’ outstanding debt to the Crown of $90.02 for rental fees owing on his water licence from 1984 to 1996, and for a licence amendment charge. Mr. Jones argued that he had not exercised his rights under the licence for 15 years and, accordingly, he should not be required to pay the fees. Alternatively, he argued that his lack of use and his failure to pay the annual rental fees amounted to an implicit abandonment of the licence. He noted that the Ministry had not billed him during those 15 years so it could reasonably be assumed that the Ministry accepted his implicit abandonment.
The Panel found that Mr. Jones failure to pay the annual rental fees could not be accepted as an intention to abandon as it was most likely because the Ministry had not billed him. In any event, the Panel found that the Water Act requires notice of abandonment to be given in writing. The Panel found that Mr. Jones had not given written notice until 1997. Therefore, he was liable for monies owed up to that date. The Panel found that the 15 year delay between billings by the Ministry was unreasonable, but it did not excuse Mr. Jones from paying the debt. The Panel noted that he had not been financially prejudiced by the delay in billing and he had retained a valid licence over those years, even though he may not have exercised his rights under the licence. Although the Panel noted that the debt could be forgiven by Cabinet in accordance with the Debts and Obligations Regulation, it held that the debt should not be forgiven in this case. The appeal was denied.