NZ Timber Trade Group lobbies Solomon Islands PM

The delegations meeting the Prime Minister (extreme right) in Auckland.

AUCKLAND, 04 JULY 2018 (PACIFI PERISCOPE) – Pacific Trade Invest New Zealand invited two key trade contacts to a meet with the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands Honourable Rick Houenipwela during his New Zealand state visit.

Malcom Scott of the New Zealand Imported Timber Trade Group (NZITTG) and Vaughan Wilkinson of Sol Tuna met with the PM Houenipwela, his delegation and the Solomon Islands High Commissioner to New Zealand, Joy Kere, at the Auckland Museum on Wednesday 6 June 2018.

PTI NZ has worked alongside NZITTG, Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) and the Solomon Islands Timber Processors and Exporters Association (SITPEA) and Solomon Islands Government Ministry of Forestry and Research and the Chamber of Commerce to create a sustainable timber export industry.

Much of it hinges on the Solomon Islands sawn timber industry obtaining third party legal verification assuring buyers their sawn timber is sourced legally. The long-term goal is a certified sustainable supply.

The Solomon Islands sawn timber industry is small compared to the export log trade, but it generates important revenue for small holders and villagers who harvest trees selectively. There is good international demand for sawn timber used in flooring, joinery, interior fittings, furniture and other uses.

The Solomon Islands annually exports to New Zealand approximately 300 containers of legally sawn timber worth about NZ$6 million. The timbers are Vitex, Taun and Kwila.

Pacific Trade Invest New Zealand Trade Commissioner Michael Greenslade greeted the Solomon Islands Prime Minister before introducing Scott and Wilkinson.

Scott is a 45-year stalwart in the timber industry both in New Zealand and internationally. He is a foundation member of NZITTG who has worked at getting third party certification credibility and sustainability worldwide.

NZITTG signed a Memorandum of Understand (MOU) in August 2017 with SITPEA, supported by PHAMA, Solomon Islands Ministry of Forestry and Research and the Chamber of Commerce.

Under the MOU, NZITTG and PHAMA are fully funding the process towards 3rd party legal verification. But time is running out when the MOU ends in 2019.

If legality is not in place, they would look at other countries to get legally certified timber supplies Scott said.

He compared third party legal verification to a warrant of fitness on a car. A car could not go on the road without it. “It is essential for Solomon Islands to have a Warrant of Fitness under SITPEA to sell their products internationally,” Scott said.

They had to build on the existing legal framework ensuring that regulations were properly monitored, and the forestry department was sufficiently funded to do this.

Scott added the Solomon Islands Timber industry needed to show the world that there was credibility in the forest management systems which included sufficient personnel, training and auditing.

NZITTG wanted to continue to do business with the Solomon Islands but all parties needed Government support to ensure that basic legal processes surrounding the felling of timber and the milling permits were sound.

Prime Minister Houenipwela said enforcement of the laws and regulations were an issue for them but his Government would relook at the timber legislation and the legal framework. He suggested there was also combination of different things the Government could review to promote sustainability – such as the reduction of logging licences, decreased exports of round logs and increasing the percentage of milled timber along with incentives to those trying legal and sustainable harvesting. It was early days yet, but export standards were being developed and they would follow up with forestry. “It needs a strong push in terms of getting it right” PM Houenipwela.

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