The Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) proposed plan for the Basin unfairly targets plantation forestry, threatening a vital rural and regional industry, according to the Australian
Forest Products Association (AFPA).
AFPA Chief Executive David Pollard said the plantation industry was willing to pull its weight in water reform, but not while activities that are potentially high water interceptors are not to be assessed at all.
“The MDBA Draft Plan will result in perverse outcomes for the management of water interception given its focus on plantation forestry, to the exclusion of other dryland activities,” said Dr Pollard.
“Plantation forests make up less than one-third of one per cent of the Murray Darling Basin, while dryland pasture and crops cover some 66 and 10 per cent respectively. Yet these land uses will not be assessed to the same level of scrutiny as plantation forests.
“Even improved pasture, which uses a similar amount of water per hectare as tree plantations, is not to be assessed for its water use. This could lead to less than efficient
outcomes in utilising our water resources.
“Moreover, the projected amounts of water claimed to be intercepted by plantations needs to be more thoroughly assessed. The MDBA bases its analysis on National Water Commission projections, which at the time were known to be highly variable estimates with a high degree of uncertainty.
“The only acceptable approach is one based on scientific evidence, facts and objective analysis. AFPA was hoping for a less political approach to the management of water
interception in the Proposed Plan.
“Instead, the MDBA risks the alienation of an industry that can and should play a vital role in the return of the Murray Darling Basin to a balanced and sustainable future, particularly with respect to aspects such as the mitigation of dryland salinity.
“Taking a more balanced approach to the assessment of dryland activities across the Basin would be a good start, including sensible thresholds on the scale and significance of water using activities on water budgets. AFPA will continue to work toward a more sensible approach in the ongoing development of the Basin Plan,” he said.