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African Rainforests Destroyed For Beehive Offices

14 March 2001

"Refurbishing Beehive offices with imported unsustainable African rainforest timbers is environmentally stupid, unpatriotic and short-changes New Zealand timber-workers of jobs," National's Environment and Conservation spokesperson Nick Smith said today.

"The environmental stupidity is that virgin tropical rainforests in Africa are being trashed for the Beehive when certified sustainably produced New Zealand timbers are available.

"It is a disgrace that New Zealand's most important public building is to be adorned with African timbers and not New Zealand's own beautiful timbers. The further nonsense is that New Zealand's fledgling sustainable forest industry and workers are being denied work because of the Government's environmental stupidity. The Government should be acting locally and thinking globally, but instead has adopted the out of sight, out of mind approach."

"The $40 million refurbishment of the Beehive is being undertaken by Fletcher Construction and McKee Fehl Construction Ltd with architects Warren and Mahoney. The original Beehive panelling was Tawa but the refurbishment is being undertaken with Anegre, an African rainforest hardwood from the Ivory Coast and Tanzania marketed in New Zealand as 'English Tawa'.

"I was advised by Parliament's Building Development Manager Mr Jim Glynan that the decision to use African rainforest timber was a consequence of a Government directive that no New Zealand native timbers be used. Ministers had given no instruction that the timbers used be from certified sustainably managed forests.

"Sustainable forest management is a critical issue in respect of climate change and species survival. A New Zealand Prime Minister can hardly express concern to a visiting Asian or African leader about rainforest destruction in an office panelled with clear felled timber products from Africa.

"The Government should at the very least prohibit any timber not certified as sustainable from being used in the Beehive and should preferably insist on using sustainably harvested New Zealand Tawa," Dr Smith said.

BACKGROUND NOTES Use of African Hardwood in Beehive Refurbishment

What work is involved in the Beehive Refurbishment? The $40million extensive refurbishment was approved by the Labour/Alliance Government last year. It consists of three stages. Stage 1 was substantially mechanical servicing.

Stage 2 is the public floors of the building and involves major interior redesign up to the fourth floor. Stage 2 is being undertaken by Fletcher Construction and is well underway. The Anegre panelling is extensively used and can be viewed in the partially completed second floor lobby.

Stage 3 involves the refurbishment of all Ministerial offices and the Cabinet room from floors 4-10. The contract has recently been let to McKee Fehl Construction. The company has confirmed with suppliers that it will be using the imported Anegre product. There are approximately 900 sheets of the veneered product required to do all the offices. (See: Beehive Refurbishment Joinery Specifications, attached)

What is Anegre and where is it sourced? Anegre is an African hardwood native to Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Kenya. The product is most likely to have come from the Ivory Coast as much of the forests in Nigeria and Kenya have already been felled. Timber merchants in New Zealand have marketed 'Anegre' by the pseudo name "English Tawa" despite there being no such timber. The World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development notes that over the past fifteen years Africa lost more forest than any other continent and that 90% of the Central African rainforests have been destroyed. (See: World Woods, attached)

Is sustainably managed NZ Tawa available? The 1993 Forests Act requires that NZ forest products must be sustainably produced. The Ministry of Forestry must approve sustainable management plans. Certified NZ Tawa is available from several suppliers.

What is the price difference between African Anegre and NZ Tawa? New Zealand Tawa is more expensive because producers must certify the forest is sustainably managed. Certification involves ensuring no more trees are harvested than what grows in any year and that harvesting is done by non-invasive techniques that minimise impacts on the forest and its wildlife.

The cost of the NZ Tawa product is approximately $12 per sheet or 10% more expensive that the West African Anegre. The additional cost of using New Zealand sustainably produced timbers for the Beehive is approximately $10,000.

How is sustainability of native forest management certified? The Forest Stewardship Council is the internationally recognised certifying authority for sustainability. Millions of hectares of forests worldwide are certified by the FSC including over 400,000 hectares of forest in New Zealand. No forests on the Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Kenya or Tanzania are listed as FSC certified.


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