THE state government has intervened in a Zoos Victoria campaign encouraging its visitors to buy sustainably sourced paper products, ordering it to be dumped or altered.
Department of Primary Industries representatives called Zoos Victoria management on several occasions late last year to warn that its ”Wipe for Wildlife” campaign was contrary to government policy.
The campaign, run last year at Healesville Sanctuary, encouraged visitors to switch to recycled toilet paper and other paper products that had been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which operates a voluntary, international sustainability standard for timber.
On its website Zoos Victoria says: ”Millions of trees are flushed down Australian toilets each year, so we can wipe our bums and bits. Zoos Victoria’s Wipe for Wildlife campaign encourages the community to help save local wildlife by making the switch to recycled toilet paper and choosing products with the FSC logo.”
But the campaign, which included a roaming superhero, Crapman (”Saving wildlife one toilet at a time”), fell foul of the Baillieu government’s timber industry action plan, released in December 2011. Under the plan, the government says it will not fund or endorse any organisation that does not also equally recognise an alternative timber certification scheme – the Australian Forestry Standard.
Most conservationist groups believe the stewardship council’s certification standards are more rigorous. The Australian Forestry Standard is supported broadly by the timber industry.
Some estimates suggest 80 per cent to 90 per cent of Australian timber products have obtained the Australian certification, but council certification has been granted to only about 10 per cent of locally produced timber products.
The operations of the state-owned timber company VicForests have obtained certification from the Australian Forestry Standard, but not the Forest Stewardship Council.
The Zoos Victoria campaign had been nominated for a local award from the Australian chapter of the council, but had to later withdraw following the intervention of the department.
On its website Zoos Victoria says: ”More than 91 per cent of surveyed visitors to Healesville Sanctuary recalled the Wipe for Wildlife message”.
Zoos Victoria chief executive Jenny Gray said that the zoo had ”received notification that as per the Victorian Timber Industry Action Plan, no Victorian government departments or agencies will adopt or endorse any positions which do not equally recognise third-party certification from the Australian Forestry Standard, Forest Stewardship Council, or any equivalent scheme”.
”As an agency of the Victorian Government, Zoos Victoria now follows this policy and is in the process of amending messaging accordingly.”
The Baillieu government says its certification laws put into effect a similar agreement that was reached at the 2009 national primary industries ministerial council. The 2009 agreement was spearheaded by the state Labor government.
Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said: ”Zoos Victoria’s promotion of one forestry standard to the exclusion of another contravened COAG policy.”