Australian Government Speaks Out On PNG Illegal Timber Imports While NZ Government Remains Silent.
GREENPEACE PRESS RELEASE
Tuesday 10th February 2003: The launch of Greenpeace’s report last week on Malaysian company Rimbunan Hijau’s illegal logging operations in PNG, has erupted into a bitter debate in Australia and PNG, with Australia’s Forestry Minister and a former PNG Environment Minister acknowledging the truth behind the report.
While timber company Rimbunan Hijau management and industry officials attempt to deny Greenpeace claims, Australia's forests minister, Ian McDonald, issued a statement in which he says he agrees with Greenpeace, “that one of the world's most important forests is being destroyed by illegal logging in PNG”.(1)
“Given the amount of attention and concern the issue of illegal logging has generated within the Australian Government and the region, we are astounded by the silence of the New Zealand Government,” said Grant Rosoman Greenpeace Forest Campaigner. “Considering the amount of timber imported by New Zealand from PNG we would have expected immediate action by the Government to stop illegal timber entering New Zealand.”
“New Zealand imports timber from a number of countries suffering from illegal logging including Indonesia and Malaysia(2), but by far the greatest amount of timber is coming from PNG,” said Rosoman.
Revelations of political patronage by logging companies and their influence over some PNG Forestry officials has been supported this week by former Environment Minister in Sir Michael Somare's PNG Government, Mr. Sasa Zibe. Mr Zibe claims that he was sacked from his portfolio after trying to stand up to a 'network' of influence within the government and forestry industry.(3)
“The New Zealand Government harps on about increasing stability and sustainability in PNG and the region, surely halting the imports of illegal timber into New Zealand would be a step towards this goal,” said Rosoman.
Last week, Greenpeace drew attention to the operations of Auckland based company, The LumberBank, asking them to verify the origin of the timber in their yard. The LumberBank is owned by Rimbunan Hijau and imports timber from Rimbunan Hijau’s controversial PNG operations.
On the 5th February Greenpeace activists from the Rainbow Warrior exposed the loading of suspected illegal plywood in Indonesia. The area, located on the west side of Tanjung Puting National Park, Kalimantan, is home to a rapidly diminishing population of orang-utans. Greenpeace is in the region at the invitation of national non-profit organisations and the Indonesian Environment Minister to witness environmental problems facing this highly sensitive and volatile region.
For more information contact: Grant Rosoman, Forests Campaigner 027 210 2271 Suzette Jackson, Communications Officer 021 577 556 The report can be downloaded from http://www.greenpeace.org.nz/pdfs/RH_Forest_Report.pdf
(1) http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2004/s1038949.htm Friday, 6 February , 2004
(2) New Zealand imports year to June 2003; PNG 4,600m3, Indonesia 1,865m3, Malaysia 521m3. Statistics New Zealand, Overseas Trade, 2003.
(3) "Not only within the department itself, but a network within the industry, and a network within the government circles, even within the ministers too," Mr Zibe said on ABC radio 6th February 2004.
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