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Illegal logger active on Coromandel

Illegal logger active on Coromandel

Green Party Conservation Spokesperson Jeanette Fitzsimons is warning that the owner of LumberBank, the timber importer expelled from the New Zealand Timber Importers Association for illegally logging Papua New Guinea forests, is actively involved in forestry in the Coromandel.

LumberBank lost its appeal to the High Court last Tuesday against its expulsion from the association, which controls 80 per cent of timber imports to New Zealand.

Ms Fitzsimons said the expulsion was heartening because the New Zealand Timber Importers Association tried to ensure that New Zealand only imports timber logged according to rules that offer some protection to the environment and the local community.

“However, the public will be worried that LumberBank's environmental ethics are likely to be shared by Ernslaw One of which it is a subsidiary. Ernslaw owns both the cutting rights to the pine forests in the northern Coromandel Peninsula and Blue Mountain Lumber which proposes to build a large timber mill at Whangapoua,” said Ms Fitzsimons.

“The mill consent is currently under appeal because local residents fear that it will pollute two rivers and the Whangapoua harbour.

"Those fears are justified because Ernslaw One logs its Coromandel forests with little concern for streams and waterways. It also refuses to leave a wide-enough strip of riparian vegetation and I have driven through the trashed landscape that this company has left in its wake.”

Ms Fitzsimons said local residents were very concerned that they would not be able to rely on Ernslaw One observing its consent conditions for air and water pollution if the mill went ahead. They also lacked faith that the Thames Coromandel District Council would enforce the conditions.

She said the Greens had previously called on the Government to ban imports of timber logged unsustainably from overseas forests by large companies that destroyed the heritage and the livelihoods of people in developing countries.

"Although LumberBank has been expelled from the Association there is nothing to stop it from importing timber from the forests it has trashed overseas. It just won't have the endorsement of the Association," said Ms Fitzsimons.

“New Zealand prides itself on having banned clear-felling of native forests here. We should not simply pass the cost on to Papua New Guinea and we need to be very wary of any company that is tainted with associations there.”

Ms Fitzsimons suggested people concerned about the destruction of tropical forests should look carefully when they buy timber for products that are certified sustainably grown.

• Ernslaw One is a subsidiary of Rimbunan Hijau, found by a World Bank commissioned study to be operating in breach of the forestry laws in PNG, and part of the stable of companies owned by the Malaysian Tiong family.

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