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Native hardwood forest obtains int. certification

Native hardwood forest obtains rigorous international environmental certification

South Island based timber supplier Lindsay and Dixon has achieved SmartWood / Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for one of New Zealand’s largest native Beech forests, located in Southland. It is possibly the only Australasian native forest to hold such high environmental certification.

The FSC certification, announced today, will help boost the company’s Asian and North American business due to the market’s demand for products that are verified as having been produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

“While there may be certified Radiata Pine plantations, it’s quite a different thing altogether to achieve FSC certification for a native forest. This is a milestone for indigenous forestry in New Zealand,” Bernie Lagan, Lindsay & Dixon managing director, says.

FSC is a stringent, internationally recognized environmental certification program for the global forest industry.

Lindsay & Dixon supplies Cherry Beech and Maple Beech hardwood product to distributors, retailers and furniture makers across New Zealand and Australia.

“A couple of years ago, re-exporters in Asia weren’t too concerned whether the timber they were using was FSC certified or not. Now we’re seeing strong evidence of the demand for legitimate, sustainable hardwoods filtering down the chain from the buyers in North America and Europe,” Bernie Lagan says.

“In some instances, particularly at the retail level, specifying ‘environmentally certified product only’ is a risk management strategy to avoid potential negative publicity from environmental groups rightfully reacting to the illegal harvesting of hardwoods in various countries around the world.” Mr Lagan says other companies recognise an opportunity to create unique, premium products that tell a story about this part of the world and leverage the rising environmental awareness amongst international consumers.

“Consumers, with their busy, urban lives, have an increasing desire to reconnect with nature be it through walking across a timber floor or owning a beautifully crafted piece of wooden furniture. Design-driven organisations can use strong environmental accreditation to successfully differentiate their product offerings from those of their competitors.”

The FSC certification program also enables any FSC certified wood product at the retail level to be traced back, through its chain of custody, to the forest from where it was harvested. Through the FSC label consumers can ‘vote with their dollars’. It provides a guarantee that the product they are buying was manufactured from timber grown and harvested in an environmentally sound manner.

“New Zealand’s native hardwoods are beautiful timbers entirely suitable to the highest quality furniture, floorings and interior finishes. But the management and harvesting of our indigenous forests is an emotive issue for a lot of people and it has to be done correctly,” Mr Lagan says.

Sustainable management principles for Lindsay & Dixon mean that only one in 56 trees of a certain size, or 1.8 per cent of the forest resource, are harvested each year. Constant monitoring is required to ensure that the delicate balance of flora and fauna in the native forest environment is maintained.

Tuatapere-based Lindsay & Dixon manages 11,582 hectares of native beech forest on a sustainable basis, currently employs 50 staff, and harvests 600m3 of hardwood timber per month.

“Committing to the environmental certification process enabled Lindsay & Dixon to be proactive in the Beech timber industry and it provided the basis to work with a wide range of interest groups, from local councils and communities, to environmental and government groups, and in doing so, achieve a balanced and satisfactory outcome for all.”

The company’s financial investment in the certification process is significant according to Mr Lagan. He estimates the external cost alone to be nearly $200,000. In addition, every year the company submits to a formal external audit procedure. But it is an investment destined to pay off, with a steady 15 to 20 per cent increase in product sales anticipated over the next 12 months.

“It is by working with the right, like-minded companies and their designers, architects and premium furniture manufacturers, that the inherent value of our country’s native hardwood resource can be effectively realized. With the FSC certification of our hardwood forest resource secured, Lindsay & Dixon is now able to be an active participant in such partnerships.”

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