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Government to take action on illegal logging

27 May 2008 Media Statement


Government to take action on illegal logging

The Labour-Progressive Government is to adopt a comprehensive package of measures to address the issue of illegally-logged wood products, Forestry Minister Jim Anderton announced today.

The suite of international and domestic actions is part of a wider push for New Zealand to take a global leadership position in sustainable forest management.

"We will be promoting international cooperation to reduce global rates of deforestation and illegal logging to support action on climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development," said Jim Anderton.

International action will include the development of financial mechanisms to assist developing countries to reduce deforestation; commissioning research on further steps to address international trade in illegally-logged wood and Ministerial-level engagement with key consumer countries and those countries from which there is a risk of export to New Zealand of illegally-logged wood.

"We will also be supporting efforts to have the threatened and commonly illegally logged timber, kwila, listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). A listing would allow trade in this type of timber to be effectively monitored and controlled internationally."

Jim Anderton said that verifying the legality of wood products at the border was not straightforward and even if documentation is supplied, verifying its authenticity is not easy. "Imposing a ban on illegal timber would be impractical and ineffective if it was not backed up by reliable traceability and verification systems involving exporting countries."

"For this reason we need to develop cooperative mechanisms with our trading partners to prevent illegally-logged wood being exported to New Zealand. Bilateral agreements offer the best prospect, in the short term, of providing practicable mechanisms to effectively identify and prevent illegal wood from entering New Zealand. It is precisely these sorts of bilateral mechanisms that I plan to discuss with counterparts in the Asia-Pacific region over the next two months.

Jim Anderton said that while New Zealand was a relatively small importer of wood products, we did have kwila imports, which has been identified as the main species associated with illegally sourced wood and wood product imports. Kwila is used for decking and outdoor furniture products.

"On Monday 2 June I am meeting with the Malaysian Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities in Kuala Lumpur to discuss what our two countries can do to address this issue together." Jim Anderton said he also planned to meet with ministers from other major kwila-exporting countries in the region shortly.

"I have recently had discussions with Tony Burke, the Australian Commonwealth Minister of Forestry, and we have agreed to work together to tackle this issue. I am hopeful that New Zealand and Australia can engage with exporting countries so that together we have a common and united approach.

Jim Anderton said that in the meantime while measures are developed to address illegal timber products coming onto the market it is crucial to ensure that consumers in New Zealand know what they are buying and are encouraged to ask questions of retailers.

"Consumers should be seeking information from importers and retailers to ensure that the timber products they are buying, particularly outdoor furniture, are made from legally sourced timber. I am keen to work with industry to enhance information sharing and to increase the information available."

"The Cabinet has agreed in principle to mandatory labelling of all kwila products sold in New Zealand at point of sale to indicate whether the supplier has verification of the legality of the wood. The Australian Government has proposed similar measures and I will be reporting back to Cabinet in July on the feasibility and practicality of implementing such labelling, with a view to developing a trans-Tasman regime.

In announcing the Labour-Progressive Government's strategy to combat illegal logging Jim Anderton released two reports commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry on the impacts of illegal logging and options for addressing the problem, and the recent Cabinet paper outlining the strategy. These can be found at: http://www.maf.govt.nz/forestry/illegal-logging/index.htm

ENDS

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