Media Releases - 26 June 2020

Nippon Paper Group Put On Notice: Bushfires Change Everything

Kuark forest, East Gippsland. Image: Rob Blakers

Forty-one environmental groups have today written to Japan’s Nippon Paper Group, which owns the Opal Australian Paper mill in Maryvale, Victoria, Australia, detailing concerns around the company’s Australian supply chain. The letter outlines the devastating effects of the 2019-2020 bushfires on Australia’s native forests and wildlife, how the company’s operations have exacerbated these effects, and the illegal logging contaminating its supply chain. 

Gemma Tillack, Forest Policy Director for Rainforest Action Network says: “Nippon Paper Group, through its Australian subsidiary Opal, consumes over half a million tonnes of Victorian native forest fibre each year. These forests need to be allowed to recover from bushfires, rather than be ground up to supply paper mills.” 

Ms Tillack continues: “Victoria’s forests were hit incredibly hard during the bushfires - 31 percent of the state of Victoria’s rainforests were burnt, and a quarter of wet or damp forests, and over a third of its lowland forests, have been impacted. The government has identified nearly 200 rare or threatened listed forest animals that have had over half of their known habitat burnt. Nippon must respond to this crisis by immediately transitioning out of sourcing wood fibre from these forests and stop driving native forest logging across the state.” 

This fibre comes from logs harvested by state government logging agency VicForests, which has recently been found to be in breach of state and federal laws while logging Leadbeater’s Possum and Greater Glider habitat. 

Pete Cooper, the Wilderness Society’s Market Campaigner says: “The presence of VicForests in Nippon Paper Group’s Australian supply chain is a breach of the company’s own policies, which claims that steps will be taken to ensure that wood within its supply chain is harvested in compliance with relevant laws, and that no illegally harvested wood is included.” 

Mr Cooper says: “Nippon Paper Group needs to stop supporting illegal practices and driving species extinction in Victoria by severing ties with repeat offenders, VicForests.” 

The letter calls upon Nippon Paper Group to also immediately remove any non-Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Full Forest Management certified Australian native forest wood and wood fibre from its supply chains. 

Opal is a company in an industry that is facing change and uncertainty—as can be seen through the industrial action currently underway at the Maryvale facility. A transition to more sustainable sources is inevitable, and early action from Nippon Paper Group can contribute to making sure that this is a just process for workers. 

In Japan, Rainforest Action Network’s Dr. Toyo Kawakawi, says “Australia’s unique wildlife is well known in Japanese society, and Nippon Paper Group needs to take steps to help solve the crisis facing Australia’s native forests, wildlife and communities affected by catastrophic bushfires. On the day of Nippon Paper Group’s Annual General Meeting, we are calling upon the company’s executives and shareholders to enact a rapid transition away from native forests and instead source plantation and recycled fibre.” 

View a copy of the joint letter sent to Nippon Paper Group. 

For more information or comment, please contact:
Tim Beshara, the Wilderness Society, +61 437878786, [email protected]
Gemma Tillack, Rainforest Action Network, +61 456843690, [email protected]

Signatories to the letter are:
Rainforest Action Network
The Wilderness Society
Cairns and Far North Environment Centre
Canberra Forest Alliance
Catalyst Conservation Foundation
Environment East Gippsland
Environment Tasmania
Environment Victoria
Friends of Jackeys Marsh
Friends of Kalang Headwaters
Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum Inc
Friends of Bats and Habitat Gippsland
Friends of the Earth (FOE) Australia
Friends of the Great Western Tiers
Gippsland Environment Group
Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO)
Healesville Environment Watch Inc
Kinglake Friends of the Forest Inc
Knitting Nannas of Toolangi
Lake Tyers Coast Action
Lakes Entrance Community Landcare
Nature Conservation Council
Newlands Friends of the Forest 
North Coast Environment Council
Rainforest Foundation
Rubicon Forest Protection Group (RFPG)
Save Our Strathbogie Forest
The Coastwatchers Association
The Friends of Mallacoota
The Tree Projects
Total Environment Centre
Victorian National Parks Association
Warburton Environment
Wildlife of the Central Highlands (WOTCH)
Wildlife Victoria Inc
XR Forests Japan