Avoiding fines for importing certain wood or wood derived products

Avoiding fines for importing certain wood or wood derived products

Do you import wood or wood derived products such as paper, tissues, seats or wooden furniture or décor (or furniture containing wood)?  If so, you should be aware of your obligations under the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act 2012 (the Act).  The Act criminalises the importation into Australia of illegally sourced timber and carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $85,000 for individuals and $425,000 for corporations.

From 30 November 2014, importers of “regulated timber products” need to conduct due diligence, assess and manage the risk of whether the timber used in their products was illegally sourced.  Whilst the Act has been in effect since November 2013, its due diligence requirements came into effect on 30 November 2014.

Some products are exempt from the due diligence requirements, for example if they are made from recycled material or if the products imported are part of a consignment where the total value of “regulated timber products” in the consignment is less than $1,000.

You are required to provide Customs with a declaration that the have complied with the due diligence requirements in the Act.  The Act requires a written due diligence system which must:

  • Be in writing
  • set out how you intend to comply with the Act
  • include relevant importer information, and
  • be retained for 5 years.

Before importing a “regulated timber product” you must obtain as much information about the product as is reasonably practical.  The regulations contain an extensive list of such information which includes, for example, details of the country where it was sourced, supplier details, scientific name of the timber and whether a timber legality framework applies in the country of origin.

Once the due diligence has been undertaken you may need to undertake a risk assessment as to whether the “regulated timber products” were obtained from illegal logging.  The regulations also contains country specific guidelines.  If the risk is “not a low” risk that the “regulated timber products” may have been sourced from illegal logging then you need to take steps to mitigate the risk – this could include not importing the merchandise.

The Department of Agriculture has indicated that it intends to focus for the first 18 months on assisting importers to comply with this new legislation – after which the focus will be on enforcement.

Don’t get caught out.  Ensure that during 2015 you have sufficiently developed and implemented your due diligence and risk assessment system.

Gladwin Legal can assist you to comply by putting together your due diligence system, letters to suppliers, purchasing policy and other relevant documents.