By Lyn Drummond

28 July 2011 – The Green Building Council of Australia said on Wednesday that there was evidence that illegally sourced timber was used in Australian buildings and products and Greenpeace called for tougher laws to stop the practice, after a newspaper report alleged that illegally sourced rainforest timber from Malaysia was being used at the Central Park Broadway site in Sydney.

Greenpeace staged a protest at the site on Wednesday morning, that resulted in the arrest of seven people.

The high profile site has a goal of achieving five star Green Star rating, but the article, which appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/greenest-sydney-building-using-rainforest-timber-20110727-1hz71.html said that illegally sourced rainforest timber from Malaysia was allegedly being used at Central Park, placing at risk its goal of achieving the rating.

Developer Frasers Property Australia said in a statement: “Frasers takes this issue extremely seriously and has today directed its builder, Watpac Construction, to undertake a thorough audit of all timber used on site and to ensure appropriate procedures are in place to monitor and manage their five-star Green Star compliance obligations.

“To date, Frasers has been confident that compliance had been achieved, and Frasers independent investigations had confirmed that plywood timber currently used on site is sourced from a FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified supplier, and that the timber itself is certified as legally sourced,” the  statement said.

“However, if it is confirmed that timber used on site does not meet the requirement by the GBCA for FSC certification, Frasers will act immediately to ensure that only FSC certified timber is used on site”.

The SMH article claimed that tonnes of plywood from a mill in Sarawak, Malaysia, was being used to help build the concrete foundations of the complex.

But the wood is alleged not to be certified by the FSC nor the Program for the Enforcement of Forest Certification –  the two organisations that verify whether a logging operation can be regarded as sustainable.

Greenpeace said it welcomed the audit but pointed out that the government had a responsibility to bring in laws to stop illegal timber being imported into the country in the first place.

“This highlights how pervasive illegal timber is that it could end up in what is otherwise a very “green” development,” said Greenpeace Forests Campaigner, Reece Turner.

Greenpeace said it has seen the certificate for the timber, which it says did not provide proof of legality.

“The paperwork is from a Malaysian Government agency and is not independent, third party certification of legality or sustainability as was claimed, ” Mr Turner said.

“The paperwork is also dated March 2009, before the evidence of illegal logging was documented by Greenpeace’s partner organisation Earthsight and reported by the Norwegian Government.

“The government needs to ensure that only independent, third party certified timber, such as FSC, is imported into this country – especially timber from high risk countries with rainforests like Malaysia,” he said.

The GBCA said it was committed to eliminating the use of illegally-logged timber from Green Star projects over the coming years.

GBCA chief executive Romilly Madew said: “There is evidence that illegally-sourced timber is being used in Australian buildings, as well as in imported engineered wood products and furniture.

“In 2003-04, for instance, around $450 million worth of illegal timber was imported into Australia,” Ms Madew said.

The Green Star environmental rating system rates the environmental design and construction of buildings and relies on third party certification schemes for rating of materials.

The Green Star “timber” credit, which projects can choose to document to contribute towards a Green Star rating, is within the materials category.

It was introduced in its current format into all Green Star rating tools on 1 January 2010 following the GBCA’s Sustainable Timber Credit Review.

The timber credit encourages the use of legal, certified timber in Green Star projects.

If a Green Star project chooses to comply with and document the use of the timber credit as part of its Green Star submission, one point is available where at least 95 per cent (by cost) of all timber is certified by a forest certification scheme that meets the GBCA’s  essential criteria for forest certification, or is from a reused source or is sourced from a combination of both, the GBCA said.

FCSs that comply with the essential criteria must be accredited by Forest Stewardship Council International or the Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification.

FSC Australia is the Australian provider of FSC certification. The Australian Forest Certification Scheme is the PEFC accredited scheme in Australia.

Any project registered for Green Star certification wishing to comply with the timber credit must demonstrate that the timber used in the project has been certified by either FSC or PEFC.

If the project can demonstrate compliance, it will be awarded the appropriate points under the Green Star Timber credit.  No compliance, no points.

Ric Sinclair, managing director, Forest and Wood Products Australia Limited, told The Fifth Estate he had not heard of these practices elsewhere, but industry sources said there were indications this was happening.