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Lives 'destroyed' to build Kiwi backyardTags: papua png illegal logging impact social conflict industry local people government

Septer Manufandu, from Indonesia, is a man on a mission - he wants to stop Kiwis from buying kwila.

At a public meeting in Ponsonby tonight, the campaigner against deforestation in Indonesia's West Papua region is hoping to win over Aucklanders to join his fight to preserve the culture of his people by boycotting the illegally logged timber.

"Since the Government is not prepared for an outright ban on kwila, the only way we can win this fight is for Kiwis to stop buying it," said Mr Manufandu, who is also the executive secretary of Foker, an NGO co-operation forum in West Papua representing 64 organisations.

New Zealand imports the tropical kwila timber from Indonesian-run Papua and from Papua New Guinea mainly for the manufacture of outdoor furniture and decking.

According to a World Bank report, up to 80 per cent of such logging was illegal, and Forestry Minister Jim Anderton said last week that the Cabinet had an in-principle agreement to mandatory labelling of all kwila products sold in New Zealand at the point of sale to indicate if the supplier had verification of the legality of the wood.

But Mr Manufandu, who belongs to the Biak tribe in the forest region, said the proposed actions were far from adequate.

"Western demand for kwila is not only killing the forests, it is also killing our people," he said. "The forest is seen as our mother, which provides us with food, water and shelter - and when that is taken away, our people lose everything."

Mr Manufandu said the illegal logging activities has caused much suffering and devastation among his people, and migrant workers of logging companies also spread diseases such as Aids to the forest people.

He said: "Sometimes, I wonder if many Kiwis knew how many lives of families have been destroyed for them to have their kwila outdoor table or deck to enjoy their barbecues in the summer."

The forestry graduate says he was hopeful that New Zealanders would be sympathetic to their cause.

"Unlike the New Zealand Maori, our people have no voice," he said. "New Zealanders know the importance of preserving indigenous cultures as they have done with the Maori, and I am hoping that Kiwis can become our voice too."

He has been touring New Zealand since May 27 as a guest of the Indonesia Human Rights Committee and the Catholic peace group Pax Christi.

© New Zealand Herald (New Zealand) -- 2008-06-03
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