Greenpeace Urges NZ Government To Follow Australia's Lead On Illegal Timber Imports

Press release - August 10, 2010
Greenpeace is welcoming the Australian Government’s announcement today of a detailed legal framework for imported wood in contrast to the New Zealand Government’s very weak voluntary code of practice.

“In Australia today we have the rare occurrence where Greenpeace is standing shoulder to shoulder with industry and the Government around a policy to help protect the world’s most threatened rainforests. While here in New Zealand the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Government are sitting on their hands and doing almost nothing to prevent illegal timber imports,” says Greenpeace Forests Campaigner, Grant Rosoman.

“There has long been broad support from the NZ forestry and timber industry together with environment and conservation NGOs for new laws to halt illegal imports (1). This support, along with results from MAF’s own analysis that illegal logging costs the NZ forestry sector $178 million annually, has so far been ignored,” says Rosoman.

“MAF have been saying for several years that they didn’t want to get out of step with the rest of the world, in particular Australia, with their response on illegal timber imports. However, Australia, the EU and the US have now all taken strong legislative stances on the issue, leaving New Zealand shamefully well behind.”

Every year, New Zealand imports millions of dollars worth of illegal timber such as kwila, and wood products (that are made into products such as Cottonsoft toilet paper) from the last remaining rainforests of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. This means that New Zealanders are unknowingly buying wood products directly linked to climate change, human rights abuse and biodiversity loss every day. Greenpeace has been campaigning for 20 years to see a ban on illegal timber imports into New Zealand.

An area of tropical rainforest the size of a football field is being destroyed every two seconds. Illegal logging is one of the major causes of forest loss. This is causing huge amounts of carbon pollution, accelerating climate change, destroying the habitat of species like endangered orangutans, and stealing from the communities who depend upon the forests for their livelihoods.

The proposed legislation, if passed by the Australian Federal Parliament, will send a clear signal to the market that illegal timber is prohibited, and drive systemic changes in the forestry industry. Companies in Australia will be required to trace timber back to the country and concession of harvest as well as verify wood products. Those New Zealand companies that have been moving in the right direction on this issue, such as The Warehouse, Placemakers, Mitre 10, Bunnings and Smiths City, would be effectively rewarded for their early stand if similar legislation was introduced in New Zealand.