A Southern Highlands timber company has become the first Australian business to import ecologically harvested timber from Papua New Guinea, thanks to a former policeman who stopped illegal logging in his home village.
Sep Galeva is an elder of the Kuni tribe's Catfish clan from Lake Murray in Papua New Guinea's remote Western Province. He woke up to the widespread devastation of his local forest when he returned to his village in 1997 to discover a foreign road-building company had illegally logged large areas under the guise of road clearing.
At the time he was working as a police officer in Port Moresby. Having stopped human rights abuses in that line of work, he turned his attention to the rights of trees, villagers and tribal land owners.
"I was inspired by a film about an American Indian who stood up and fought hard to protect his tribe during the Wild West days when commercial forces were ruining their hunting grounds," he says.
After organising a series of road blocks in 2003 preventing trucks transporting illegal logs, he hired a lawyer and persuaded the PNG National Court to outlaw the logging by 2004.
Galeva did not care what happened to him while fighting big logging companies. As a Christian, he believed he would be protected because he was "fighting for righteousness. I am more than happy to spill my blood to save our forests and I am not afraid," he says.
Galeva now hopes to export his "green timber" around the world. He also wants to spread the strategy of community forestry throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
Galeva, now the Lake Murray Resource Owners Association chairman, eventually teamed with Greenpeace which found him a market for his timber in NSW.
A Greenpeace campaigner, Grant Rosoman, persuaded Mittagong company Woodage to buy the timber.
"This has taken us about 10 years but we have now found a market for ecologically harvested timber controlled by a local community as an alternative to large-scale destructive logging by big irresponsible companies," Rosoman says. "It works well and we hope it is a case of PNG today and tomorrow the world."
Woodage's director, Will Mussett, said the demand for ecologically sustainable timber was growing, with customers now requesting it for outdoor furniture, floors, doors and rafters. "And with a growing market we need more and more supply from people like Sep Galeva," he says.
Â© Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) -- 2008-03-12
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Link to original text