Forestry on the front foot

Sappi plantations in KwaZulu-Natal.

The Supreme Court of Appeal has awarded in FSA’s favour unanimously and with costs, on the important matter of existing lawful water use! This confirms FSA’s long-held position that all plantations that were in existence at the time of the introduction of the National Water Act in 1998, are deemed to be an existing lawful water user, irrespective of whether they were previously authorised under pre-1998 legislation. It also means that those rights cannot arbitrarily be withdrawn or expropriated by the State.

In further good news the Supreme Court upheld the High Court’s original rulings in FSA’s favour on genus exchange, which means that genus exchange does not require a reduction in planted area or authorisation from the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS). Furthermore, DWS cannot enforce a ‘use it or lose it’ policy to deprive legitimate water users of their rights.

FSA Executive Director Mike Peter has described these judgements as a “momentous victory for the industry” which he says protects the assets and rights of growers.

More good news on the transport front is that the Department of Transport is planning to formalise the PBS vehicle system into legislation. PBS trucks have been transporting timber and other goods as part of a ‘pilot project’ for several years, and they have proved to be safer and more efficient and cost effective than standard long haul trucks. Minister Sindisiwe Chikunga has confirmed that the current status quo regarding the use of PBS vehicles will continue until the formal legislation is ready to be implemented.