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Time for NZ to act on illegal logging

Time for NZ to act on illegal logging

Now that Australia has announced moves to combat illegal logging it is time New Zealand got real about this crime against the environment and indigenous people in our region. As the latest report from the undercover experts of EIA and Telepak reveals ("Rogue Traders" August 2010), numerous shipments of illegally logged kwila are still being smuggled out to meet the demands of the international market. It comes from the pristine old growth forests of Indonesian-controlled West Papua and at the expense of the Papuan tribal people who depend on the forest for the necessities of life.

Indonesia Human Rights Committee,

P O Box 68419,

Auckland

11 August, 2010

Hon David Carter,

Minister of Forests,

Parliament Buildings,

Wellington.

Dear Minister Carter,

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee would like to draw to your attention two recent developments which indicate the urgent need for New Zealand to develop legislation to prevent illegally logged wood from entering New Zealand.

We believe that this action is urgent to protect the tropical hardwood kwila (also known as merbau) from becoming extinct and to protect the old growth forest of West Papua, the third largest tract of tropical forest in the world.

The Australian Government has just announced a planned package of legislative measures to restrict the sale of illegally logged wood and to make it an offence to import any timber products into Australia that have not been legally harvested.



A code of conduct is planned to ensure that suppliers who first place wood onto the market must carry out tests to ensure that the wood is legal. Consumers will be able to view a trade description of all wood products.

In announcing these measures the Australian Labor Government said these measures were intended to complement the United States Lacey Act on illegal timber and the new regulations recently announced by the European Union.

The other important development is the new evidence that the illegal trade in kwila from West Papua continues to flourish. A new report from the environment NGOs Environment Investigation Agency (EIA) and Telepak offers evidence that large amounts of kwila logs and rough sawn timber continue to be smuggled out of out of West Papua via the Indonesian ports of Makassar and Tanjung Perak in Surabaya.

The authors of the August 2010 report "Rogue Traders" give credit to the Indonesian Government for the measures it has put in place to stem the illegal trade, but emphasise that the current Indonesian measures are not strong enough to end the problem. Sometimes charges are brought against the junior staff of the logging and export syndicates, but their well-connected bosses continue to evade justice.

Earlier this year Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for greater efforts against illegal logging from all law enforcement bodies, local politicians and the police and military. However, the prevalence of systemic corruption at all levels of the bureaucracy and the involvement of the military continue to drive this destructive trade.

As you know, we are deeply concerned at the extent to which kwila continues to be imported into New Zealand. In the light of research undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests and our own investigations into the range of products on sale in Auckland, we believe that much of the kwila on sale has been logged illegally. Some large retail chains have opted to cease selling kwila, but there are still many furniture manufacturers and retail outlets importing kwila which has no reliable third party legality certification. Kwila decking is still a sizeable proportion of all timber decking sold.

We strongly support the international campaign for kwila to be listed on Appendix 111 of the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and we believe that all countries must work together to ensure that this beautiful tree does not become extinct.

Environmental crime is hard to separate from human rights crime and deforestations impacts on the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable - tribal peoples of West Papua who depend on the forest for their livelihood and their future.

Indonesia recently signed a memorandum with Norway under which Indonesia pledged to impose a moratorium on new forestry concessions for two years in return for a financial commitment of one billion dollars. However, this hopeful development could still be undermined unless the trade in illegal logging is stemmed.

Now that Australia has joined the European Union and the United States in legislative plans to tackle illegal logging it is time for New Zealand to take decisive steps also.

Yours sincerely,

Maire Leadbeater

(for the Indonesia Human Rights Committee)

ENDS

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