In mid 2008, a positive move by the Brumby government could see plantation companies have to pay for the water their thirsty trees soak up which would otherwise flow into streams and rivers. The idea is worrying plantation growers across the state, from the Strzelekis to south west Victoria. Charging for the rain that is soaked up on private property before it reaches streams could be controversial and have wider implications – let’s hope.
Where trees are purposely planted for cutting down every 12 – 20 years to profit the owner, they should be slugged for water use (unlike orchardists). Where there’s urgent need for reforestation in areas like the Murray-Darling Basin, trees planted and left unlogged would mean a net-benefit in time.
Now – let’s see Mr Brumby use this same logic on the thick regrowth that their native forest logging creates. The fast growing sappy young trees that replace a native forest after clearfelling resembles plantations in every way but name. Every year, thousands of hectares of mature forest are bulldozed and burnt in the hope that strapping young trees will grow back. Over the last 40 years of clearfelling mature public forests, the regrowth has sucked our water catchments seriously dry.
A fast growing tree crop – regardless of the name the government gives it – robs about a third to a half of the normal water that would flow into streams compared to a mature growing forest. Stable older forests actually store, filter and release water. But young trees consume vast amounts until they slow their growth at around 80 years old.
Mr Brumby could get really water-smart and just stop all logging in sensitive water catchment areas. After all, you can’t drink money.