The company behind the proposed Bell Bay veneer processing mill has defended itself against accusations of human rights abuses and illegal logging.
Patriarch Pty Ltd was formed in Western Australia in May last year, and shares two directors with Malaysian timber giant Shin Yang.
State Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said satellite imagery of Shin Yang’s logging operations in Borneo showed illegal logging on steep slopes and in an area slated for national park.
The Bob Brown Foundation has also said that, “local communities and ex-staff of Shin Yang have alleged the company hires armed gangsters to intimidate and assault those who voice concerns” and in 2009 Shin Yang were investigated by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia.
However, a spokesperson for the company rejected the allegations.
They said Patriarch was a separate company to Shin Yang, and even if that were not the case, there had been no prosecutions against Shin Yang in Malaysia or elsewhere.
“Patriarch is an Australian company and observes Australian law,” the spokesperson said.
“Patriarch does not usually believe it is appropriate to comment on the operations of another organisation. But in this instance, given the commentary, it is important to note that as far as Patriarch is aware there are no legal proceedings to which Shin Yang is a party to in respect of human rights abuse in Malaysia or any other jurisdiction.
“The forestry activities of the Shin Yang group are subject to regular, publicly available, government audit. Further, Shin Yang operates Chain of Custody processes to demonstrate its wood is legally sourced.”
According to tribal advocacy group Survival International, Shin Yang is in conflict with the local communities where they operate in Malaysia.
“The Penan [tribe] are fighting against continued encroachment by the company and have received little or no compensation for the loss of the forests they rely on,” Survivor International said.
“The company operates on Penan land without the tribe’s consent, and has even claimed in an Environmental Impact Assessment report that an area where the tribe live contained ‘no permanent local settlements’.”
However, speaking in Parliament in November, Minister for Resources Sarah Courtney said the company would meet Tasmanian standards.
“If [the Greens] are concerned about practices in Asia they should be welcoming companies here where we have good standards in Tasmania.
“Ms O’Connor knows that the wood harvested in Tasmania has to comply with world-class standards. That will continue.”