It is the “International Year of Forest” and today I dedicated a forum at Parliament to Kelly Kwalik a forest defender who was murdered in West Papua in December 2009 and to Jose Ribeiro da Silva and Maria de Espirito Santa da Silva forest environmental activists murdered in Brazil May 2011.
This is an international issue. Our remaining rainforests are the lungs of our planet and home to 60 million indigenous people and thousands of endangered species.
Today I put out a challenge to the New Zealand Government to stop the trade in illegal and unsustainable rainforest products by having the courage to regulate. So much has already been done by a coalition of groups including the Importer of Tropical Timber Group who have made a voluntary commitment to refuse to trade in these products.
At our forum speakers from the Forest Owners Association, the Wellington Zoo, Greenpeace and Paula Makabory, West Papuan human rights activist demonstrated the solidarity across diverse sectors for political change and regulation.
The forestry industry restated their long term commitment to stop illegal imports, the zoo brought the sun bear costume and their conservation track record, Greenpeace showed us the death of a Sumatran tiger and a rainforest and Paula Makabory described how the destruction of forest people is a climate and a human rights issue for West Papua.
The forestry industry and the environment groups have been staunch in their call for all loop holes to be closed and for the cowboy importers of fake or non-existent certification to be shut down. We cannot progress without regulation and we look to the Minister responsible for Forestry in the Year of the Forests to act on behalf of our interests and the interests of all nations. The United States has led the way with the Lacey Act and the EU and Australia are taking steps to legislate. In fact the Minister of Forests in Australia has publicly stated that the laws to stop illegal and unsustainable logging imports are a priority to be passed through parliament this year. This includes requiring importers to make a declaration at the border and face criminal proceedings for trading in these damaging products.
We look to Government to stop dragging their heels and join the consensus. The rainforest is worthy of our protection and voluntary codes and promises of public education are yet to stop the illegal kwila decking in the backyard and the barbecue table built from the blood of West Papuans and the demise of Sumatran tigers.