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The New Zealand Government is taking a stand against illegal logging by introducing a new requirement for retailers to clearly display whether they have information about the legality of their kwila/merbau timber and timber products, Forestry Minister Jim Anderton announced today.
The new scheme will require all retailers and merchants of products made from kwila (also known as merbau) - a tropical hardwood tree species native to South East Asia and the Pacific Islands - to clearly indicate at the point of sale whether they have information about the legality of such products from a New Zealand Government-recognised verification scheme.
Kwila/merbau is most often imported for use in decking or as outdoor furniture.
Jim Anderton said illegal logging had devastating effects, environmentally, socially and financially.
Illegally-logged timber could depress the world price for timber, affecting New Zealand exports.
Illegal logging also had hugely damaging effects on the environment and communities in countries where it was taking place. New Zealand wanted to ensure the measures it took tackled the cause of the problems in those countries, and that was why he had met with Government representatives from affected countries over the past few months, Jim Anderton said.
"By introducing the scheme, New Zealand is playing its part as a responsible global citizen and demonstrating that illegal logging will not be tolerated by international communities over the long term."
He said that 13 percent of all sawn timber imported into New Zealand may be illegally logged. Kwila/merbau has been targeted for this new labelling requirement because it is estimated to comprise over 80 percent of that potentially suspiciously-sourced imported timber.
"The mandatory labelling scheme will help raise consumer awareness of illegal logging and, more specifically, the legality issues associated with kwila/merbau. I am confident that both retailers and consumers will support the scheme and use their purchasing power to buy kwila/merbau products that come with information about their legality."
Before introducing the scheme, the Government will consult with industry and other stakeholders in order to develop practical standards and procedures. This will almost certainly mean that the scheme will be finally introduced in 2009/10. From that time, all kwila/merbau timber and timber products sold must indicate whether they are accompanied by documentation from a government-recognised certification or verification scheme to substantiate their legality.
A public awareness campaign will also be implemented to assist consumers make informed choices.
The labelling scheme is part of a number of actions being taken by the Government to address this important issue. More information on the scheme and other government initiatives to stop illegal logging is available from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry website: www.maf.govt.nz/forestry/illegal-logging/.