How much timber from illegal logging reaches New Zealand?

illegal logging stop deforestationIllegal logging occurs in many tropical countries and some of its products make their way to New Zealand. This affects both the economy and the environment. How can this be combatted?

Data on Illegal Logging

Historically, it has been very difficult to acquire data on how much illegal timber is imported into New Zealand. Firstly, a definition of illegal logging is in order. Illegal logging involves practices such as logging protected species or in protected areas, buying logs from areas such as national parks, logging outside the boundaries of concessions, a higher amount of timber extraction than is recognized, logging without a permit, obtaining logging concessions through bribes, the transportation of timber that was illegally harvested, exporting timber that is protected under national laws, and finally, declaring a lower value and/or volume of timber. Illegal logging has consequences both on the economy and the environment. In areas where deforestation is occurring on a large scale, illegal logging exacerbates it. In tropical areas, where most of the worldwide illegal logging takes place, a huge number of species depends on the biodiversity of the forest. The practice can also cause soil erosion, landslides, flooding, and the altering of the local climate. The global climate also suffers because forests act as sinks for carbon.

Economic Consequences

For countries such as New Zealand where forestry takes place under high environmental standards, illegal logging has serious economic consequences. It was estimated in 2004 that illegal logging depresses world timber prices by 7-16 percent. In addition, illegal logging causes losses in government revenues, a decrease in profits and competitiveness, the marginalization of small companies, and the existence of perverse incentives. There are also social consequences such as the weakening of indigenous resource management institutions, marginalizing the poor who depend on the forests for their livelihoods, decreased access to the forest, and reduced importance placed by governments on environmental spending.

Imports into New Zealand

New Zealand imports wood from a variety of countries that have been accused of exporting illegal wood. The list includes the Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and China. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) conducted a study in 2012 of illegal logging all over the world and found that illegal logging accounts for 50-90 percent of all forestry in the Amazon basin, Central Africa, and Southeast Asia. The lost economic value is between $30-100 billion US or 10-30 percent of the global timber trade. In Indonesia, for example, estimates of the value of illegal logging are somewhere between $600 million to 8.7 billion US. Between June 2012 and June 2013, New Zealand imported $75,565,000 NZ worth of wood products from Indonesia and if much of this has been obtained illegally, this is a large problem. In the same year, New Zealand also imported $317,987,000 NZ worth of wood products from China, a country renowned for smuggling in illegal timber. In addition, in many countries such as Indonesia, the military has demanded as part of peace conditions that resource rich areas are left alone, so that they may do with it as they wish. Finally, officials are often bribed for a logging permit. In Indonesia, a common price is 10-40 percent of the logging deal. In China, the US, EU, and Japan, 80 percent of the world’s illegally logged wood is received. They are often mixed with legally extracted logs or they are filtered through and sold as products of real or fabricated plantations.

Domestic Guarantees

The situation above can be easily contrasted with the situation in New Zealand, whose Forests Act was amended in 1993. Forests in New Zealand must be managed sustainably and to provide benefits for society and biodiversity; forest cover must be maintained continuously and ecological balance must be guaranteed. There are currently 50,000 hectares of indigenous forest in New Zealand with an annual allowable harvest of 78,000 m3. Thus, for so many reasons, it is best to choose timber from New Zealand.