Anderton’s stand against illegal logging backed by forest owners

3 Nov 2008

A government plan to require all lumber and wood products made from kwila to carry labels verifying that they come from legally-logged forests is strongly supported by the NZ Forest Owners Association.

The plan, announced by forestry minister Jim Anderton on Friday, follows calls for the government to prevent products from illegally logged forests being imported or used in New Zealand. In August this year, 10 forestry, wood product and environmental organisations signed a joint statement calling for urgent action in the face of widespread illegal logging in tropical rain forests.

Kwila (also known as merbau) is a tropical hardwood tree species used widely in New Zealand for decking and outdoor furniture. The species, which is native to South East Asia and the Pacific Islands, has been targeted because it is thought to make up about 80 per cent of illegally-sourced timber imported into New Zealand.

NZFOA chief executive David Rhodes says the government plan will not capture all illegal imports, but is a practical first step that has forest owners’ support.

“It will put a severe brake on the trade in the material that we know comprises most of the problem, while allowing officials time to work with their counterparts overseas to develop more comprehensive international controls.”

The NZ Government’s move follows recent changes to a key piece of conservation law in the United States, the Lacey Act. The Act, which has regulated trade in endangered species since 1900, has been extended to prevent illegal logging and trade.

”This makes the United States the first country to formally ban the import and sale of illegally sourced forest products. The European Union and Australia are now working on initiatives to toughen their existing controls,” Mr Rhodes says.

“While the NZ and US Governments have taken different approaches to the problem, the objectives are the same – the protection of indigenous forests from illegal and unsustainable harvest.”

He says the New Zealand forest industry and environmental groups are committed to sustainable forestry and “illegal logging is not sustainable”.

“From a plantation forestry perspective, illegal logging and the destruction of rainforests unfairly sullies the reputation of all wood and forest products – even those derived from sustainably managed plantation forests. Products from illegally logged forests also undercut New Zealand forest products in domestic and overseas markets.”

He says forest owners welcome the government’s commitment to consult with interested parties and are keen to see the success of this and other illegal logging initiatives the government has underway.

“Illegal harvesting of indigenous forests, especially in the tropics and northern Asia, has a huge impact on the natural environment and local communities, destroying the habitat of endangered species, and contributing to climate change.

“In contrast, it is hard to find a land use which is more environmentally friendly than plantation forestry as practised in New Zealand. Also, our government strictly enforces laws relating to the sustainable harvest of logs from native forests.

“Opposing illegal logging and the trade in products from illegally harvested forests is an environmental cause where New Zealand can stand tall.”

For more information, contact David Rhodes, tel 0274 955 525