ALLEGATIONS OF ILLEGAL LOGGING IN PNG
During, and following, the recent visit to PNG of the Greenpeace vessel “Rainbow Warrior” to PNG, there has been a concerted press campaign, both within PNG and in our timber export markets overseas, conducted by Greenpeace and their associated organization, Forest Trends based in the United States.
In their campaign they have asserted that virtually all commercial logging activities, and commercially produced timber products there from, are from illegal timber operations. In making their claims they rely on a recent Forest Trends Report, which they state is based on the PNG Government’s own reports of investigations into the forest industry.
Overseas, Greenpeace’s assertions and the Forest Trends Report have been reported by ABC Radio in Australia, forest trade publications in New Zealand and in the last week at United Nations forums in New York. Domestically, there has been coverage in the Post Courier, the PNG Industry News and on radio.
So that stakeholders in the forest sector; including foreign governments, donors and the media; export buyers of PNG’s timber products, and the public, better understand the basis of the allegations and the Report, the FIA advises that –
- Forest Trends receives support from the World Bank, and the Bank holds a directorship of the organization.
- The so called government reports into the PNG forest sector were a requirement of the Bank as a prelude to its now terminated Forest Conservation Project. The Bank approved the appointment of consultants and managed the content and output of the program.
- The Forest Trends Report is a compilation of the “Bank’s” earlier reports.
- The valid findings of the Bank’s reports were addressed by The National Forest Board, which includes the Eco-forestry Forum as a member, and referred to NEC in 2003.
- NEC in its decision 89/ 2003, directed the Board to implement certain actions to rectify identified problems.
- Of concern to all stakeholders, was the legal approach to be taken when renewing timber permits which had been issued prior to the new Forest Act of 1992.
- Since 1992, the Forest Board had renewed such permits under section 78 of the Forest Act. This was supported by legal advice from Attorneys General, State Solicitors and the Board’s own lawyers.
- The consultants did not accept that what had been occurring since 1992 was correct and instead, insisted that section 137 of the Act should have been used.
- An attempt was made to resolve this impasse by obtaining independent legal advice on the matter from Gadens Lawyers, which advice endorsed the use of section 78 of the Act.
- The consultants did not accept the umpire’s decision, nor did they reflect this in their reports.
In order to overcome any uncertainty on this matter, and to clarify a new legal process for permit renewal, the Board proposed and Parliament subsequently passed, clarifying amendments to section 137 of the Act.
For Greenpeace and Forest Trends to now resurrect this issue is in our view nothing short of a deliberate campaign to undermine the sustainable economic development of PNGs forest resources and to create uncertainty and misinformation in our export markets and with foreign governments.
If successful, Greenpeace will have contributed nothing to sustainable forest management except the loss of upwards of 4000 jobs in the processing sector and exports of processed products exceeding US$ 35 million p.a.