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Illegal palm oil plantations are destroying protected Indonesian rainforests and other habitats — and New Zealand’s industrial dairy sector is a major beneficiary, says a new environmental report.

The daming report, released yesterday by Greenpeace Indonesia, “Deceased Estate: Illegal palm oil wiping out Indonesia’s national forest”, finds palm oil plantation expansion in national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and even UNESCO sites, across Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Papua.

Palm oil expansion is the largest single cause of destruction of critical Indonesian rainforests over the past two decades.

Deceased Estate
The Deceased Estate report on rainforest destruction in Indonesia and West Papua. Image: Greenpeace Indonesia

The Deceased Estate has report found that there are four palm oil producers with at least 50,000ha of oil palm plantations illegally established inside the protected forest estate.

These producers include Wilmar International which imports palm kernel expeller (PKE) to New Zealand.

PKE is a product of the palm oil industry used as supplementary feed in New Zealand’s industrial dairying.

“Back in 2020, when Fonterra handed control of its PKE imports to Wilmar International, Greenpeace warned of trouble to come,” Greenpeace Aotearoa agriculture campaigner Christine Rose said last night.

‘Illegal deforestation’
“Sadly we’re now seeing evidence of New Zealand agriculture benefiting from illegal deforestation for palm oil and PKE.”

New Zealand is the world’s largest importer of PKE, importing an estimated two million tonnes a year which is used to feed the dairy herd because there are too many cows for grass growth alone to sustain.

“New Zealand’s industrial dairying is cashing in on the destruction of endangered species, critical rainforest habitat and indigenous livelihoods in Indonesia,” said Rose.

“New Zealand’s intensive dairying benefits from ecological destruction in Indonesia while polluting rivers, the climate and drinking water at home.

“The New Zealand dairy sector’s use of PKE to support herd intensification and expansion, effectively outsources environmental costs onto some of the most diverse remaining forests and species in the world, and it has to stop.

“It’s unconscionable that New Zealand is complicit in the illegal expansion of palm oil plantations that undermine indigenous community land use and destroy the habitat of rare and endangered species such as Sumatran orangutans, tigers and elephants.”

‘Highly polluting’
Greenpeace Aotearoa is calling for an end to the importation of supplementary feed like PKE, “because it drives highly polluting dairy intensification in Aotearoa, contributes to rainforest destruction and increases climate emissions both here and in Indonesia.”

Clearance of Indonesian rainforest for palm oil released an estimated 104 Tg (million metric tons) of primary forest carbon from Indonesia’s forest estate between 2001-2019. This is equal to 60 percent of the annual emissions of international aviation.

Greenhouse gas emissions from NZ’s intensive dairy sector, supported by this illegal PKE, are 48 percent of this country’s total.

“With industrial agriculture being New Zealand’s biggest climate polluter, we need an urgent shift away from this high-input, industrial agribusiness model towards regenerative organic farming that works within the limits of nature,” said Rose.

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