19 Oct 2009

Environmental groups at odds over hardwood imports

8:31 pm on 19 October 2009

Environmental groups are at odds over the importation of a tropical timber.

Kwila from unsustainable sources has been imported for many years, but now shipments of kwila certified as sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council are coming into New Zealand from Malaysia.

Greenpeace supports that, but other groups don't.

Grant Rosoman of Greenpeace says that kwila is being over-exploited but that harvesting it sustainably is acceptable, and that Greenpeace has confidence in the certification process.

Greenpeace's stance differs from that of the Indonesian Human Rights Committee, which opposes any imports of kwila, regardless of its sustainability.

The committee's Maire Leadbeater says that kwila is a threatened species and that people in the areas where the hardwood trees are grown are powerless against wealthy outside interests.

Given that the tree is so important to old-growth forests and takes up to 80 years to grow to maturity, she says, the simplest and most important message is "Don't buy kwila".

The Rainforest Action Coalition says Greenpeace is out of step on the issue.