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Govt. dithers, rainforest-felling imports continue

Govt. dithers while rainforest-felling imports continue

Green Media Release 27th May 2008

The Green Party has welcomed a government pledge to try to do something about stopping importation of illegally logged tropical kwila timber, after a year-long campaign by the Greens against such imports.

But the party wants action, not more vague promises.

“We’re happy to see suggestions of measures, but worried this is yet more meaningless hot air from the Beehive about climate change,” Greens Co-Leader Russel Norman says. “We believe the Labour coalition’s promises only when they are actioned.”

Labour promised six years ago to clamp down on such imports, because the Australian and New Zealand kwila decking and furniture trade was destroying rainforests on the island of Papua. Since the promise, importation of kwila is thought to have soared, not reduced, while unchecked large-scale rainforest destruction, including illegal logging, has continued.

“In its 2002 manifesto, Labour promised it would ‘work towards ensuring that only sustainably produced timber is imported into New Zealand’, but it did nothing ‘til we in the Greens ramped up our tropical timber campaign a year ago,” Dr Norman says. “Now the promises are much more specific but they are still promises.”

The Government has suggested attempting international agreements with supplying countries, starting public education on the effects of buying kwila, and maybe a mandatory labelling scheme.

“We welcome the Government’s responsible buying guidelines published on the MAF website. But the Government has promised a public education campaign and one website is not a campaign. We first need to see concrete measures – when, where and how the truth about kwila will be told – not some vague promise for future action.

“Mandatory labelling of all kwila products is also a great idea but both labelling and the education campaign seem to be reliant on yet more talk by government ie on the outcome of international agreement initiatives. The Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry will do all it can to back-peddle on any proposed international agreements restricting kwila imports so as not to upset the preferential trade deal with China.

“US Congress last month passed a law banning the importation of illegally logged timber and timber products. We should do the same here.”


Bullet points about kwila:

1. The Government has estimated up to 80 percent of illegally-sourced wood products sold in New Zealand is kwila.

2. The kwila trade is one of the significant ways Australasia contributes to climate change. Australia and New Zealand take 60 percent of Papua New Guinea’s sawn kwila (Australia 50 percent and NZ 10). The United Nations has identified tropical deforestation as the single biggest man-made contributor to greenhouse emissions; responsible for 20 percent of all man-made emissions.

3. Nearly all New Zealand’s kwila imports, which are mostly in the form of decking timber and outdoor furniture, come from rainforests in Papua New Guinea and neighbouring Indonesian-run Papua. The World Bank has reported 70 to 80 percent of such logging is illegal.

4. The Greens have been unable to obtain accurate import statistics on kwila furniture, due to the lack of comprehensive and specific border record-keeping by the Government. However, in 2006 this country imported around $236 million in wood furniture and furniture parts, including $108 million from China (an importer of substantial quantities of illegally logged timber), $35 million from Malaysia (with many companies involved in illegal logging around South East Asia and the Pacific) and $12 million from Indonesia (where illegal logging is pervasive). This $236 million compares to $90 million of a couple of years before.

5. Papua New Guinea alone is home to some 7.5 percent of the Earth’s biodiversity, including 197 species of frog, 762 species of birds and 3000 species of fish. Many are found nowhere else. One such creature is the Queen Alexandra Birdwing, the largest butterfly in the world. The PNG forests are also home to unique tree kangaroo and a large variety of wild orchids.

6. Forestry Minister Jim Anderton said in August 2007 that overseas illegal logging might be costing our forestry industry $266 million in lost revenue.

7. According to a survey by the Auckland-based Indonesia Human Rights Committee, most tropical kwila outdoor furniture in Auckland stores came from the forests of Indonesian Papua, where villagers are often forced off their lands, tortured and detained by corrupt military officials to allow logging.

8. The Green Party’s tropical timber campaign, which has been running for a year, has targeted furniture retail chains and the ANZ Bank. The ANZ Banking Group financially supports Rimbunan Hijau, a logging corporation which is devastating ecosystems in Indonesian Papua and Papua New Guinea.


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