Frequently asked Questions

Page - December 17, 2008

Check here for answer to frequently asked questions about the Good Wood Guide and other consumer queries.

Search for terms and definitions in our Good Wood glossary.

What is good wood?

Good wood is timber grown in plantations or harvested from 'well managed' forests or recycled, reused or salvaged wood. Good wood enables consumers to continue using wood products without causing forest destruction.

Find products made from good wood

Find out whether a timber species is good wood

Wood to avoid:

  •  New Zealand and Australian native old growth
  • Uncertified plantation, cleared from native forest after 1994
  • Uncertified tropical hard woods, especially from Indonesia, PNG, Malaysia, Singapore, China and Vietnam

How does the Good Wood Guide rate timber?

Our Good Wood Guide rates timber species and products using a colour system of green and amber. Here is a guide to what these colours mean:

  GREEN  = Excellent. Use this timber every time.  

  • Certified or verified recycled, reused, and urban salvaged
  • FSC-certified forests, plantations, woodlots or agro/farm forestry enterprises
  • Certified or verified ecotimber from Melanesian community ecoforestry projects

AMBER  = In transition to 'green'. Use when 'green' timber is not available.

  • From stepwise schemes to FSC e.g. TFT, SmartWood SmartStep,
  • Timber and wood products certified or verified 'non-controversial' sources. This will include FSC Controlled Wood, CSA certified, but not including MTCC, BRIK, PEFC, AFS and ISO.
  • Credible 3rd party verified legal such as Smart Wood VLC,
  • Verified 'community' small-scale sawn timber,
  • Verified plantation wood with commitment to move to certification,
  • NZ plantation grown eucalyptus, other hardwoods, and Cypress spp,
  • Non-verified recycled, reused and urban salvage, and
  • Timber and wood products with NZ Environmental Choice certification.

Why should I buy good wood?

Much of the wood we import into New Zealand comes from forest destruction. Destruction of ancient forests is a major global problem. We depend on these forests for the air we breath and for our weather. Around 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation and land use change. The loss of forests is a major contributor to the onset of dangerous climate change. Less than 10 per cent of the earth's surface is still covered by large intact forest areas, with over 80 per cent of its original forests destroyed or degraded.

Forests also harbour around two-thirds of the world's land based species of plants and animals. Forest loss is contributing to the extinction rate, which is about 100 times faster than in pre-human times. Forests are critical for the livelihoods of tens of millions of indigenous people and forest-dependent communities.

Why is old growth forest not considered good wood?

We must protect remaining old growth forests to prevent harmful climate change and reduce the extinction rate. Only native forests that are ecologically harvested and meet the international standards of the Forest Stewardship Council scheme are considered good wood.

Is it always better to buy plantation timber than native forest timber?

Not always. A plantation may be established after clearfelling an old growth forest. Before buying plantation timber, verify whether forests have been cleared to create the plantation (such as in Indonesia and Tasmania). The Forest Stewardship Council set a cut-off date of 1994 for conversion of forests to plantations, so avoid uncertified plantation timber cleared after this time. Native forests can be harvested ecologically and sustainably by indigenous communities to produce good wood (for example, ecotimber). Ecotimber helps forest communities control their own resources and fight illegal and destructive logging.

Search for good wood suppliers in New Zealand.

How do I know if I am buying good wood?

  1. Choose FSC certified wood.
  2. If you are not sure whether the timber is FSC, ask your supplier where it was harvested or imported from. Generally timber from Papua New Guinea or Indonesia is not good wood as it is logged destructively or illegally. For example, 70 per cent of Indonesian timber and up to 90 per cent of PNG timber is illegally logged. Timber products imported from China are likely to be made from these timbers as well. Timber grown in plantations in New Zealand or overseas could be good wood.
  3. Use the Good Wood Guide search.

Is there any good wood from Indonesia, Papua New Guinea or China?

Small quantities of ecotimber from PNG and the Solomon Islands are available in New Zealand. FSC sourced timber and wood is available from many countries.

Search for good wood suppliers.

I want to buy an outdoor furniture setting made in China. How do I know if it's made from good or bad wood?

Unfortunately, China has become the world's largest importer of tropical timbers and is known as the major 'launderer' of illegally logged timber from Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Burma, Solomon Islands, the Amazon and Congo forests. Tropical and hardwood timbers used in Chinese furniture (such as kwila, bintangor, 'oak', 'beech', meranti, ramin and teak) are best avoided. Ask the retailer if the timber is FSC-certified. If they don't know, tell them you only buy good wood and search for a similar product.

What is bad wood?

Bad wood comes from a harvesting process that is illegal or ecologically damaging. Bad wood destroys forests, biodiversity, cultures and people's lives.

Can a timber species be both good and bad?

Yes, depending on the source. For example merbau or kwila (two names for the same wood) can come from an illegal and destructive source in Papua New Guinea or Indonesia. Or it could come from an FSC or ecotimber source from PNG or Solomon Islands, or a transitional source in Indonesia (e.g. TFT).

Search for good wood species

Why aren't there more New Zealand retailers and manufacturers in the Good Wood Guide?

Many of the major DIY retailers are now stocking good woods, especially outdoor furniture and decking. However, there are still many who are not including on Trade Me. The Good Wood guide aims to encourage more timber merchants, manufacturers and retailers to stock good wood. You can help increase the supply of good wood in New Zealand by asking for FSC timber. Retailers like to know what their customers want. Member of the NZ Imported Tropical Timber Group (ITTG) have made a commitment to certified sustainable source.

What is FSC?

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international scheme for certifying and labelling forest products as green or ecologically sustainable. It is the only credible scheme in the world and has certified over 100 million hectares of forests and plantations, including over 900,000 hectares in New Zealand. When you buy a timber product carrying the FSC logo, you can be sure it comes from an environmentally appropriate and socially beneficial source.

What's the difference between FSC certification and other schemes such as AFS, PEFC or MTCC?

Unlike FSC, the Australian Forestry Standards (AFS), Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and the Malaysia Timber Certification Council (MTCC) are not a credible certification systems or standards. They are forest industry and government systems developed to give recognition to wood from the clearance of ancient forests, from operations that do not ensure indigenous peoples' rights and they do not prohibit wood from genetically modified trees. There is no environmental organisation support for these schemes.

Is ecotimber FSC-certified?

Almost! Ecotimber from the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea is in process towards FSC certification. In the meantime, it is monitored by non-government organisations to ensure it meets minimum ecological and social standards. FSC certification will be completed in 2009.

What is illegally logged timber?

Timber is illegally logged when it breaches national or international laws. These include breaches of forestry laws (such as not getting the prior informed permission from the indigenous landowners, damaging soils and polluting waterways) and transport or customs regulations such as misclassification of species or amounts. It is a relatively simple process for an independent third party to establish if timber is illegal.

How do I know if a retailer is selling illegally logged timber?

It's best to assume the worst until proven otherwise when buying imported wood products. Unfortunately many timber retailers unknowingly stock illegally logged wood products, especially from Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea (including via China). Most New Zealand retailers and suppliers do not have chain of custody systems to accurately track where their wood products come from and there is no law to stop them importing illegally sourced wood.

How can I tell if a timber product is from a legal source?

If a product carries the FSC logo or is certified by the FSC, this is your guarantee that the timber you are purchasing is from a legal source. If it is not either FSC-certified or ecotimber, ask your retailer to provide credible documents that prove it is from a legal source, including legal verification by SmartWood Smartstep or it from Tropical Forest Trust (TFT) sources that are in transition to FSC. Keep in mind that government and company guarantees are not credible as they may be involved in the illegal activities. These include direct company or government claims of legality or 'sustainability' or from schemes such as MTCC (Malaysia Timber Certification Council), ITTO (International Tropical Timber Organisation) and BRIK (Indonesian guarantee scheme).

You can encourage timber traders to develop good wood purchasing policies.

To end New Zealand's complicity in the illegal logging of the Paradise Forests, the New Zealand government must introduce legislation banning imports of illegally logged timber and wood products into New Zealand.

What can I do to support good wood?

1)    Always buy good wood products.

2)    Buy plantation wood if you can be sure it is from a credible source.

3)    Buy verified recycled, reused or salvaged timber and check out secondhand and antique furniture instead of buying new.

I think that a retailer near me is selling illegal timber. What can I do?

Ask for proof that their products are from a legal source. If they cannot provide proof, write to the company manager and raise your concerns. Point out that it is likely they are selling timber from illegal sources, possibly without their knowledge. Invite them to download the Greenpeace procurement policy to help them phase out illegal stock.

Urge your retailer to source FSC or other good wood products for you. You may want to mention that you are willing to pay a little more for good wood products rather than support forest destruction by buying cheap, illegal products.

I'm a responsible timber retailer. How can I be included in the Good Wood Guide?

If you are a timber or furniture merchant, manufacturer, retailer, or specifier and would like to be included in the Good Wood Guide, download the form, print it out, fill in your product details and mail to P.O. Box 18836, Christchurch. We will verify your details and add your good wood products to the guide.