Peak forestry body rejects science behind SA water plan
by Danielle Grindlay, ABC
A national forestry body says water licensing policy introduced by the South Australian Government is based on ‘artificial’ evidence.
Forestry companies in the lower south east of SA will be required to buy water licences, as part of the State Government’s plans to ensure sustainability of the resource.
It has taken the Government nearly a decade of work to introduce the policy.
The Australian Forest Products Association agrees a licensing system is needed but rejects the science underpinning the Government scheme.
“There are some understandings that we think are wrong around the way that forests intercept water,” chief executive Ross Hampton said.
“When you plant a tree you know that trees use more water when water’s available and they don’t use as much water when the water isn’t there.
“So it doesn’t make sense to create this carte blanche view that has taken a very high view of what the water used by forests is.”
“This is a terrible blow really to all of those businesses that rely on their raw material of forests,” he said.
“The State Government’s come up with what we think is an artificially-inflated valuation for their water licences.”
Meanwhile Professor Jennifer McKay of University of South Australia’s law school says the water scheme is ‘world class’ and based on a wealth of evidence.
“There was a very good study done by CSIRO, like in the 80s, and that was followed up by some more recent studies,” she said.
“Having forestry account for its water use in any water region is a fundamentally sound principle.
“You should include every water user in your water plan.”
Prof McKay does acknowledge a financial ‘impost’ to companies and agrees South Australia might lose forestry investment to other states because of the licensing scheme.
But she says the policy is likely to be replicated in other states and nations.
“No longer is the assumption that the trees are not using water,” she said.
“They suck water up from a shallow aquifer but they also reduce the amount of water that gets on the ground.
“If you just planted trees you stopped the other horticulturalists.
“I think it’s a herald for other places in Australia to look at this process or adopt this policy … it is a world first to have forestry properly accounting for its water use.”