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Questions over use of sustainable forests fund

Questions over use of sustainable forests fund

People in favour of logging our natural forests appear to be misusing a Government grant to undermine a sustainability initiative for our plantation forests, Green Party Forestry Spokesperson Ian Ewen-Street MP said today.

"My fundamental question is why a senior Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry employee and others appear to be using Government funds to subvert a process which is in the interests of the country," Mr Ewen-Street said.

A collection of forestry representatives wrote to the international Forest Stewardship Council, asking it not to endorse a national standard being developed for New Zealand's plantation forests, claiming they had not been consulted. Mr Ewen-Street said that was a nonsense. "They are essentially trying to block certification of plantation forests because they appear to want less stringent standards applied to natural forests."

The letter of complaint to the FSC is signed by Roger May, Indigenous Forest Standards Technical Committee coordinator and FSC member, and Dr Colin O'Loughlin, chairman of the Indigenous Forest Certification Steering Group. The steering group was given a $92,139 Government grant, to help develop a sustainability standard for natural forests. "The grant was not meant to be misused to subvert a process and principle New Zealand should actually be buying into - that is, sustainable management of plantation forests," Mr Ewen-Street said.

Kit Richards, formerly of Timberlands, and Tony Newton, manager of the MAF's Indigenous Forestry Unit, were among people whose names appear on the letter as "stakeholders" supporting the complaint.

In response to a parliamentary question from Mr Ewen-Street on the topic today, Labour MP Parekura Horomia, on behalf of the Minister of Forestry, said the Government had suspended further funding of the project till it was satisfied that no MAF funding had been used for the complaint. He also said the MAF employee's name was put on the letter of complaint without the MAF employee's knowledge.

The Forest Owners Association, environmental, social and Maori groups have been working on a sustainability standard for New Zealand's plantation forests for about two years, and were nearing the end of the process. This would culminate in seeking certification from the international Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) that our plantation forests are well, and sustainably, managed.

The FSC is an international non-profit organization, which supports environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable management of the world's forests. If plantations are found to conform to FSC standards, a certificate is issued, enabling the landowner to sell product as 'certified wood'.

ENDS

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