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Lumberbank Withdraws NZTIA Expulsion Appeal

The Lumberbank Withdraws NZTIA Expulsion Appeal

The LumberBank New Zealand Ltd (TLB) has withdrawn its appeal against a High Court decision over its expulsion from the New Zealand Timber Importers Association (NZTIA) in December last year. The matter was due to be heard later this month.

TLB had been seeking to overturn its removal from the timber importers group but has since decided to withdraw this action on the basis that it no longer sees any benefit in membership of NZTIA.

TLB General Manager Buster Wyllie said the company was expelled from the group due to a perceived lack of compliance with NZTIA’s Rainforest Policy. The Rainforest Policy seeks to ensure that imported forest produce has come from certified, sustainable and legal operations.

He said TLB’s apparent non-compliance with the policy stems from their trading with parent company Rimbunan Hijau from Papua New Guinea, a timber and forestry company identified by Greenpeace as allegedly involved in illegal logging of tropical hardwoods in PNG.

Mr Wyllie said NZTIA did not accept that timber being imported by TLB for use in the New Zealand market had come from legal forestry methods in PNG, therefore the NZTIA expelled TLB. NZTIA based its decisions solely on Greenpeace views.

Mr Wyllie said he was saddened by what had happened with NZTIA but it was time to move on.

“We have adhered to the policies of the NZTIA and our expulsion from this organisation was wrong and heavy-handed. Given that NZTIA has indicated there was little action they could take, they decided the only thing they could do was to expel us from the group, relying on spurious and mischievous information initiated through Greenpeace.

“TLB did its best to assure NZTIA that we are not importing illegal timber but they were seeking independent, third party proof, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Even Greenpeace couldn’t come up with such proof of their case – that is that RH is involved in illegal forestry methods. The PNG Government authorities have confirmed it is not but this was not enough for NZTIA. They wanted irrefutable evidence but did not undertake independent research themselves.

“Also, it’s worthwhile to note that MAF’s timber and timber products procurement policy guidelines for New Zealand state that the Government recognises that standards-based certification schemes are still under development nationally and internationally, and that there is likely to be limited availability of third party certified timber for some time.”

Mr Wyllie said as the New Zealand Government had never made any comment on the situation it perhaps understood it would be impossible to insist on such certification at this time. However, NZTIA had tried to force TLB to provide this very proof. He said that TLB’s timber imports had always been in accord with PNG legal requirements.

Mr Wyllie said regardless of the background and surrounding issues he was dismayed that it had come to this point.

“It would appear that Greenpeace breathing down the necks of the NZTIA over alleged forestry methods elsewhere has pushed them to expel us in order to avoid further scrutiny on any other members of the group. We have effectively been made a sacrificial lamb.”

Mr Wyllie said he was unsure how many of the other remaining groups in the NZTIA, which indicates it represents 60 per cent of the timber importers market in New Zealand, would be able to measure up under similar, spurious scrutiny of their associated international logging links.

“At the end of the day when Greenpeace sets their desperate sights on you, they will attack with the ferociousness of a pit bull – they sink their teeth in and don’t let go, no matter what evidence to the contrary is provided.”

Mr Wyllie said TLB would continue to act in accordance with NZTIA practices and other international guidelines but simply would not seek readmission to the body.

“Given the way they have been spooked by extremists we don’t see any benefit in seeking readmission. The process NZTIA has followed to expel us has been upheld by the courts, but the internal decision by NZTIA members to expel us is based on heresay, unfortunately.”


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