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Greenpeace Reveals NZ Trading in Illegal Timber

Greenpeace Reveals New Zealand Trading in Illegal Timber

Greenpeace Forest Crimes Unit together with landowners from Papua New Guinea (PNG) closed Auckland timber company – The LumberBank Ltd- today accusing them of importing timber from illegal operations in PNG and selling it here in NZ.

Greenpeace shut down the yard and hung a banner that read "Why is illegal timber from PNG sold in NZ?". Visiting PNG landowner representatives delivered a copy of the Greenpeace report, "The Untouchables: Rimbunan Hijau's world of forest crime and political patronage" and asked The LumberBank to verify the origin of the timber in their yard. The report documents large-scale illegal and destructive logging activities in PNG by The LumberBank's parent company and main timber supplier, Malaysian giant, Rimbunan Hijau.

"There is a huge question mark over the legality of much of the timber that leaves my country and we suspect that the LumberBank is trading in timber from Rimbunan Hijau's illegal operations," said PNG Landowner Representative Dorothy Tekwie. "Our forests and livelihoods are disappearing at an alarming rate in defiance of our national laws and often without the informed consent of the local landowners like myself."

A recent official inquiry into the PNG forestry sector looked at Rimbunan Hijau's two largest logging operations and concluded those logging permits and subsequent extensions were unlawful. It went on to call "for a full investigation into the affairs of these companies" (1). Meanwhile some landowner groups are taking up their own legal case against the Rimbunan Hijau subsidiary, Wawoi Guavi Timber Company(2).

"We have come to request that New Zealanders stop buying illegal wood stolen from our lands. If market countries like New Zealand place restrictions on illegal timber imports, it will help us to halt illegal logging on our lands" said Tekwie.

New Zealand imported approximately 4,600 cubic metres of sawn timber from PNG in 2003, much of this we suspect is from illegal sources.

"We urge the New Zealand Government to immediately place import restrictions on illegal timber coming into New Zealand and adopt a strong Government timber purchasing policy, said Greenpeace Forests Campaigner, Grant Rosoman. "The New Zealand Government is also in a perfect position to protect forests from illegal logging by taking a strong stand on law enforcement and management of a global network of protected areas at the meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity next week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia."

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