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Major breakthrough in tropical timber campaign

28 July 2008

Major breakthrough in tropical timber campaign

Pledges by most New Zealand major furniture retail chains to stop importing outdoor kwila furniture is a major victory for those campaigning to save Melanesian rainforests, Green Party Co-Leader Russel Norman said today.

"Groups such as Greenpeace and Indonesia Human Rights Committee (IHRC), which together with ourselves have lobbied the big stores, have done far more than the Government in reducing importation of illegally-logged tropical kwila timber," he said.

Big Save, Harvey Norman, Briscoes, Farmers and The Warehouse have now all promised not to import kwila furniture, although old stocks might be sold at some stores next summer "season".

"We will all be watching to ensure they keep their pledges, and it's also important to say this is not the end of kwila imports," Dr Norman said. "The Government is still allowing importation of unsustainably and illegally-logged kwila decking timber and unless the Government acts, other retailers will sell kwila furniture.

"In its 2002 manifesto, Labour promised to 'work towards ensuring that only sustainably produced timber is imported into New Zealand', but did nothing 'til Greenpeace, the IHRC and the Greens ramped up tropical timber campaigns a year ago," Dr Norman says.

"In recent months the Government has made more specific promises including for a public education campaign against kwila but we have yet to see it. Large retail chains are showing more leadership and responsibility in dealing with the illegal trade, while the Government continues to talk and do nothing. It's ironic the forestry sector, timber trade, furniture retailers and NGOs all agree on regulating to stop imports of illegal wood but the Government continues to flounder."

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

"I strongly commend these big chains for listening to our arguments - and to those of Greenpeace and IHRC - and ending their part in this terrible trade; where villagers are often forced off their lands, tortured and detained by corrupt military officials to allow logging. Our Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry doesn't want to upset China, which is part of the kwila trade, but it's time for the Government to put morals ahead of money too."

ENDS

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