The Water Rule is Still Blocking New Plantation Investment

We need more trees: lifting the water rule will unlock plantation investment

Fri 16 Jun 23


Queensland’s forest and timber industry is looking forward to the lifting of the water rule barrier in the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) to promote new plantation investment in the state.

Timber Queensland CEO Mick Stephens said the barrier was irrational and discriminatory against new plantation investment.

“Under the ERF scheme, plantation forestry is the only land-based carbon sequestration activity subject to this perverse rule,” Mr Stephens said.

“This rule blocks any new plantations from participating in the scheme in areas with over 600 mm annual rainfall. The only exception is where the federal ministry has provided separate approval, which has not been granted for Queensland.

“This rule is outrageous given recent integrity issues raised with other land-based sequestration activities in the ERF scheme.

“Plantation forestry is one of the most robust and easily measurable activities for achieving carbon sequestration while providing co-benefits of additional timber supply to meet our housing and construction needs.”

14-months after the commitment, nothing has changed

In April 2023, Mr. Stephens wrote an opinion article for Wood Central to mark the first anniversary of the election commitment to remove the rule.

At the time, Stephens noted that ERF rule was a pre-election commitment by the then opposition to the industry: Labor reiterated its policy of removing the water rule about the Emissions Reduction Fund and carbon farming.

“Labor berated the Morrison Government for taking three years to start to look at this issue,” Stephens said in April.

Mr Stephens says while the rule remains in place, the plantation area in Queensland had gone backward and had fallen by more than 7% over the past few years.

Hence the industry was looking forward to the Albanese government implementing its commitment to remove the water rule and promote new plantations to meet the nation’s needs.

“It’s time to get this done. The rule has further blocked access to the Queensland government’s Land Restoration Fund since its inception for plantation forestry,” Mr Stephens said.

“It is counterproductive for both farmers and the state government’s goal to promote land-based sequestration with co-benefits.

“The lifting of this barrier will help drive much-needed new plantation investment by allowing farmers and landowners to bid and earn carbon credits in relevant schemes.

“With the rule removed, we see large potential for farmers to integrate planted forests with beef grazing, for example, to diversify their incomes and generate carbon and agricultural productivity benefits.”


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