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Water for commercial forestry

A framework to manage the impacts of commercial forests

To guide the water planning process in regions where commercial forestry is a key land use, a statewide policy framework, Managing the Water Resource Impacts of Plantation Forests , is available to industry, natural resource centres, local councils and the South Australian government. 

Commercial plantation forests provide significant economic and social benefits to South Australia. The framework helps us balance the social, economic and environmental water needs of the state while providing certainty for industries reliant on water.

Check out our summary brochure of the policy framework. 

Also see the CSIRO independent report, which reviews plantations as a water-intercepting land use in South Australia. 

The legislation 

The Natural Resources Management (Commercial Forests) Amendment Act 2011 (the Act) was assented to in November 2011, providing two new tools for managing the impacts of commercial forestry:

  • forest water licensing system
  • more flexible permit system.

These tools were deemed necessary to implement the statewide policy framework, which assists those involved in water planning by guiding their decision making processes.

Forest water licensing and permitting

The forest water licensing system is designed to closely mirror the general water licences and permits system, but is specific to the commercial forestry impacts on water. The two systems have been integrated to allow water to be traded between industry sectors, subject to conditions that need to be met to protect water availability and the long-term integrity and security of issued water rights.

To apply the licensing or permitting system, relevant information and policy proposals need to be put into draft regional NRM plans or water allocation plans, both of which are prepared by NRM boards. Following statutory consultation with regional communities and other interested parties, the plans are adopted by the Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation.

How the legislation is being rolled out

The Act is being commenced in a staged process to ensure that:

  • consistent and coherent regulatory arrangements apply to commercial forestry during, and on completion of, commencement. There are current requirements that apply to forestry, via regional NRM plans or water allocation plans and separate regulations, and these may conflict with new proposals and requirements. They will need to be appropriately revised or revoked prior to the Act’s commencement
  • the legislative provisions that provide the legal basis for undertaking the steps necessary to implement the new tools are operational when required.

Sub-sections 1-5 of the Act were commenced on 13 September 2012 to support the preparation of draft water allocation plans that propose that forest water licensing apply to commercial forestry in the relevant area. For example, this applies to the draft water allocation plan being prepared for the Lower Limestone Coast Prescribed Wells Area by the South East Natural Resources Management Board. 

For further information please contact:

Christina Shepherd
Governance and Legal Unit
Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources

Email: christina.shepherd@sa.gov.au 

Click here to view form.