The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) is concerned that the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) draft plan groups plantation forestry alongside mining and coal seam gas.
“The potential is for this plan to impose an unfair, disproportionate and damaging impact on the commercial plantation industry and the regional communities dependent upon it,” said Dr David Pollard, chief executive officer AFPA.
AFPA supports the aim of the Authority’s Draft Proposed Basin Plan, in broad terms, and supports an approach that optimises economic, social, and environmental outcomes.
According to the AFPA water planning decision-making must be based on multiple, not single, criteria and water is not the sole determinant of a forest’s value.
“Direct water extraction is radically different from plant based water interception and forests, unlike irrigated crops, use less water during dryer periods as they adjust their water use according to what is available.
“It is of concern that the significant economic, social and environmental benefits offered by plantation forestry continue to be ignored by the MDBA in its drafting of the Proposed Basin Plan despite repeated feedback from AFPA and other forest industry representatives.
“AFPA is happy to work through these issues with the Authority and the Government but, importantly, the relatively low scale and significance of plantation water use, compared with other agricultural activities, needs to be taken into account, particularly at the catchment level,” said Dr Pollard.
The Murray Valley region of New South Wales and Victoria has a plantation area of just over 195,000 hectares, which supports processing facilities in towns such as Tumut, Tumbarumba, Albury, Holbrook, Wagga Wagga and Myrtleford.