FSA reports that after years of engagement with the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS), an amended Water Use Licence (WUL) template has been produced that standardises and simplifies the conditions under which WUL are issued.
Notable amendments include:
• Genus exchange can occur without seeking authority;
• New WUL has 12 General Conditions – down from 25;
• New WUL has seven Standard Conditions for an SFRA, the most important being: distance from a watercourse will be licence specific;
• Internal audits will be required after first planting and then every five years, rather than annually;
• Independent compliance audits will be required within five years of first planting, then every 10 years, rather than annually; and
• The authorized area is the Planted Area Record.
“The inclusion of WUL as one of the Sector’s main inhibitors in the Public Private Growth Initiative (PPGI) process resulted in an intervention by the Presidency and the rapid finalisation of this new WUL template – a template agreed upon by both Industry and DWS,” commented FSA Executive Director, Mike Peter.
Michael also acknowledged the efforts of the FSA Environmental Management Committee and their inputs into this process.
Problems with the implementation of WUL for forestry date back to 2000-2001, when landowners were required to register the extent of their plantations, in hectares, on their farms; this included state-owned and privately-owned plantations.
DWS issued every property a National Register of Water Use Registration Record, each with its unique registration number. There were, however, discrepancies. In some cases, the registration record solely reflected the area in hectares under plantations, in others, the genus and the area planted were specified.
This inconsistency created uncertainty and confusion among landowners.
At the time of the registration process, DWS and FSA agreed that Water Use Licenses would be issued using water use figures established at the time for Eucalyptus.
However, Water Use Licences issued by the DWS after this agreement did not reflect the authorisation using these figures. Accompanying each WUL were a set of general conditions, as well as conditions specific to a Stream Flow Reduction Activity (SFRA). These conditions were regularly changed, and many of them were vague, contradictory, unclear, impossible to implement and monitor, but most notably exceeded the DWS mandate, according to Michael.
He said that years of negotiations between the DWS and FSA has born fruit as DWS has produced an amended Water Use Licence (WUL) template that standardises and simplifies the conditions under which WUL are issued, and addresses many of the concerns of the forest sector.