A new Act will halt the import of illegally harvested timber and provide the international market with confidence in New Zealand’s timber and timber products, says Forestry Minister, Peeni Henare.
The Forests (legal Harvest Assurance) Amendment Bill today received Royal assent and became an Act of Parliament.
Minister Henare says the Act cements New Zealand’s position on the trade of illegally harvested timber, which is a significant problem globally.
“The trade in illegally harvested timber is a major problem in the world today. Approximately 15 to 30% of the global timber trade involves illegally harvested timber,” he said.
“Illegal logging not only destroys forests and degrades ecosystems, but it also strips the economic livelihood of local communities and responsible companies.
“By introducing a legal harvest assurance system for timber products, New Zealand is taking a tangible step to support international efforts to stamp out the trade in illegally harvested timber products and provide assurance that our country is committed to trading only in legally harvested timber.”
The legal harvest assurance system will require forest owners, log traders, primary processors, timber exporters and importers to provide assurance the timber they are dealing with has been legally harvested or sourced from timber that has been legally harvested.
“At the same time, it provides importers and our domestic processors and exporters with a government assurance framework to support their businesses that will demonstrate that they have completed due diligence on the legal harvest of the timber products they are trading,” said Mr Henare.
“The Act is also needed to quash the importation of illegally harvested timber products. With a rising volume of imported timber products, it is important to ensure these products are sourced from legally harvested forests overseas.”
Minister Henare said major trading partners such as Australia, United States, the European Union, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, Japan and Republic of Korea have implemented or are developing their own legislation to prevent the trade of illegal harvested timber.
“This assurance system will bring us in line with these countries to ensure the protection of New Zealand’s forestry and wood processing sector. We export nearly 85% of our timber products to these countries. Without a legislative scheme for legal harvest, we run the risk that we can no longer export to these markets.”
The Act allows for up to three years for commencement and a further 12 months for compliance. The Ministry for Primary Industries and Te Uru Rākau – New Zealand Forestry Service will be administering and facilitating its implementation. During this time, officials will consult and engage with industry to develop regulations that are practical yet robust, the Minister said.