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Trees to be licensed to drink

A national forestry body said a 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. Source: ABC Rural

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,” said chief executive Ross Hampton.

“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 said 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 said 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.”

Forestry contractors in storm-battered Northland are feeling hard done by. Flooded farmers are getting support with emergency feed supplies and access to Taskforce Green teams for the clean-up but logging operators say their plight is being ignored. Source: Radio New Zealand

Many of the smaller roads in the Far North are still closed or barely useable following this month’s big storm, and trucks and contractors can’t get in to fell trees or move the logs to port.

Forest Industry Contractors Association Chief Executive John Stulen estimated the disruption had cost contractors hundreds of thousands of dollars so far.

He said delays in getting roads re-opened was a major concern.

“Contractors don’t get paid until the wood is shipped away and so there’s a real backlog of wood because the highways are so severely impacted,” he said.

“We have people trying to shift equipment as well as logs and [it] just stops any cash coming in. Meanwhile you’ve already paid for your road-user charges. These are the same contractors who already had to face the downturn with the Chinese market slowing up – so it’s a double hit.”

Mr Stulen said forestry contractors would be making Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce aware of the financial impact of the road damage and delays in Northland.

He said they would like him to visit the region to see the damage for himself.