Oxley’s skewed agenda won’t help PNG



Posted on 28 September 2006  | 
Villagers in Papua New Guinea handling log
Manhandling a long, straight log into position, as a corner post in a new house in Pukapuki village. As the population grows in Papua New Guinea, resource use becomes more critical, and locals across villages in the East Sepik province are being encouraged to leave trees to grow to maturity, and to look further afield to select suitable timber for houses and canoes, rather than clearing younger, but more accessible forest.
© Brent Stirton/Getty Images / WWF-UK Enlarge

WWF’s response to ‘A skewed vision from team green’ by Alan Oxley, featured in The Australian (16 September 2006) and The Post Courier (PNG) (27 September 2006).

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG) – Renewed allegations from a logging industry spin-doctor that WWF is pursuing a campaign to replace commercial forestry with eco-forestry in PNG are completely baseless and unfounded, says the global conservation organisation [1].

“WWF successfully works with more than 300 major logging companies and timber consuming companies worldwide. The notion that we are somehow anti-commercial forestry, propagated by Mr Oxley and his consultancy ITS Global, is simply untrue. The facts speak for themselves”, said Mr Michael Avosa, WWF-PNG’s Country Programme Manager [2].

The Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN), a successful partnership between WWF and forward-thinking members of the forest industry, helps conserve the world's forests while providing economic and social benefits for the businesses and people that depend on them. The GFTN employs 1.5 million people globally and has annual forest product sales exceeding USD $48 billion per year.

“WWF works with communities on small-scale eco-forestry projects, but we also work with many commercial logging companies who appreciate that truly sustainable forestry provides greater economic and social benefits to themselves and the owners of the resource”, said Ted Mamu, WWF-PNG’s Sustainable Forestry Officer.

The same charges were levied last month by Mr Oxley and ITS, in a report commissioned by Malaysian-owned Rimbunan Hijau, PNG’s largest forestry company [3]. The report was widely discredited because it was poorly researched containing factual inaccuracies, not least the wrongly based assumption that WWF owns and manages the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) [4], an independent forest management scheme.

Global wood importers, suppliers, retailers and consumers are increasingly demanding greater evidence that environmental criteria are being applied and met on the wood they purchase. In June this year, the UK Timber Trade Federation issued its own press release advising its members that, “sourcing wood products made from timber from Papua New Guinea (PNG) or the Solomon Islands was 'high risk'”, in that evidence could not be provided that environmental standards had been met [5].

WWF promotes and supports the FSC because timber-consuming countries recognise the FSC as one of the few schemes that guarantees the timber has come from a legal and sustainable source. Unfortunately, there are currently no FSC or equivalent certified forests within PNG because of the logging industry’s refusal to certify its operations, despite WWF offers of assistance.

Mr Oxley also consults for the PEFC, an industry-lead international forest management scheme, which is struggling to be acknowledged as an equal to the FSC, due to its weaker social and environmental criteria [6].

“It is easier to understand why Mr Oxley has such strong views toward WWF and the FSC, when you consider that he is paid by certain sections of the logging industry to have these views which undermine efforts to help indigenous people around the world derive some economic benefit from their forests”, said Mr Mamu.

“It’s a no-brainer. Mr Oxley claims we’re sabotaging PNG’s economic development when in fact we’re simply being realistic”, said Mr Avosa. “If PNG is going to make money from its forest resources it absolutely must be in a position to supply certified timber to the world market. The sooner Mr Oxley, the PNG logging industry, or anyone else in denial realises this, the quicker both industry and communities in PNG will benefit economically”, he added.
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Editor’s notes:

WWF has been working in PNG since 1995. Our work focuses on linking community action, science and effective policy to ensure the protection and sustainable use of forests, freshwater and marine resources across the island of New Guinea.

[1] ‘A skewed vision from team green’, 16 September 2006, The Australian, can be downloaded:
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20419525-30417,00.html

[2] WWF is helping forest managers in timber-producing countries to establish market links in timber–consuming countries, through its Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN), a successful initiative that now includes more than 300 major timber producing and consuming companies worldwide.

[3] ‘Whatever it takes: Greenpeace's anti-forestry campaign in Papua New Guinea’ (July 2006), a report by ITS Global, a Melbourne-based consulting firm, for Rimbunan Hijau (PNG) Group, can be downloaded here

WWF’s response: ‘Timber market speaks for itself says WWF’, 10 August 2006, can be downloaded here 

[4] The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), promotes good forest management practice, ensuring that it is environmentally appropriate, as well as socially and economically beneficial. The FSC is one of the few forest certification systems accepted internationally, including by environmental NGOs, which provides the guarantee that wood products have come from a legal and sustainable source. Today, 73 million hectares of the world’s forests in 72 countries have been FSC-certified. Forest products derived from FSC-certified forests are allowed to carry the FSC trademark.

[5] See Timber Trade Federation (UK) press release: ‘TTF Advises Members on PNG and Solomons’, released on 28 June 2006. This can be downloaded here

[6] See article ‘ITS Global consults to PEFC’

For further information contact: 
Lydia Kaia
Communications Officer
WWF Papua New Guinea
Tel: +675 320 0149
Email: lkaia@wwfpacific.org.pg 

Michael Avosa
Country Programme Manager
WWF Papua New Guinea
Email: mavosa@wwfpacific.org.pg
 

Villagers in Papua New Guinea handling log
Manhandling a long, straight log into position, as a corner post in a new house in Pukapuki village. As the population grows in Papua New Guinea, resource use becomes more critical, and locals across villages in the East Sepik province are being encouraged to leave trees to grow to maturity, and to look further afield to select suitable timber for houses and canoes, rather than clearing younger, but more accessible forest.
© Brent Stirton/Getty Images / WWF-UK Enlarge

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