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The government needs to urgently adopt measures to prevent products from illegally logged forests being sold in New Zealand, says the Forest Owners Association.
In Australia the Labour Party has today promised if re-elected to impose such a ban. That would put Australia in line with the United States, the European Union and a growing number of other countries.
"It is disappointing that New Zealand, which has such a good story to tell about sustainable forestry at home, has been so nervous about doing anything meaningful about this damaging trade," says president Peter Berg.
"Illegal logging and deforestation are among the biggest contributors to climate change and the loss of biodiversity world-wide. It is also associated with violence against indigenous people living in tropical forests.
"Closing off the markets for illegally logged products is the only tool that has been shown to have an effect on this trade."
The last New Zealand Labour Government adopted a policy of requiring kwila lumber imports to carry a certificate verifying that they came from legal sources. However when National came to office in 2008, this policy was abandoned in favour of continuing talks with affected countries.
Mr Berg says this was a disappointing backward step.
"Last year, we joined with other groups in our sector in supporting a private member’s Bill sponsored by Green MP Catherine Delahunty. That would have required all imports of timber and wood products to be legal, sustainable and certified by reputable certification processes.
"Unfortunately, the government chose to vote against Ms Delahunty’s Bill at the first reading, which meant it could not be considered by a select committee."
Mr Berg says it appears that the government fears a mandatory labelling policy will cause offence to other countries.
"But it has other options. Recent legislation in the United States makes it illegal to import forest products that do not meet the legal requirements of the country of origin," he says.
"Indonesia could hardly object if we did the same – we would simply be requiring New Zealand importers to demonstrate they were complying with Indonesian law."
Mr Berg says the New Zealand forest industry is committed to sustainable forestry and "illegal logging is not sustainable". It also unfairly sullies the reputation of wood and forest products from sustainably managed plantation forests.
"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.
"The ethics and the economics of illegal logging directly affect New Zealand and our neighbours in the Pacific. Opposing the trade in products from this unsavoury business is a cause where New Zealand should stand up and be counted.
"In the meantime, consumers should ask retailers to provide evidence that decking timber, outdoor furniture and other forest products, like fire logs, come from legal sources before they buy."
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