Hancock Victorian Plantations Receives Certification for Responsible Social and Environmental Practices

RICHMOND, Vermont, February 11, 2004 — Hancock Victorian Plantations (HVP), Australia’s largest private forest plantation owner, has become the first large-scale plantation manager in the country to be awarded SmartWood/Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for the responsible management of its forest operations.

SmartWood/FSC certification recognizes that HVP manages its forest operations in a socially and environmentally responsible manner. The certification also suggests additional enhancements that can be made and provides for annual audits.

Melbourne-based HVP, which owns and manages 605,150 acres (245,000 hectares) of forest plantations across Victoria, annually supplies approximately three million tons of plantation grown softwood (pine) and 300,000 tons of plantation grown hardwood (eucalypt) to sawmillers, panel producers and pulp and paper mills in Australia and overseas.

“With HVP’s commitment to attain certification, as well as the constant efforts of Tim Cadman, FSC national contact person, and other supporters, we expect an increased appreciation of the value of FSC certification and an increase in the FSC initiative in Australia,” said Jeff Hayward, SmartWood’s regional manager for Asia and the Pacific. “FSC certification in Australia is a new concept so this certification has been particularly challenging. Nevertheless, the process has now been established and we are off to a fine start.”

“I am delighted to see that a large resource manager like HVP has made such a positive commitment to providing timber from well-managed forests under our system,” said FSC Australia Contact, Tim Cadman. “It has been a long and exhaustive process and it is a credit to HVP, the social and environmental stakeholders who had a great deal of substantive input, and to the certifiers SmartWood for doing such a comprehensive assessment. I hope this will lead the way for many more companies to embrace this new direction for Australia’s timber resources.”

The HVP certification process, led by SmartWood Director and team leader Richard Z. Donovan, included direct interaction with more than 200 stakeholders in Victoria, across Australia and outside the country as well.

HVP submitted to an initial SmartWood scoping audit in May, 2000 to determine the company’s readiness to meet the strict FSC standards for protecting the environment and the rights and welfare of workers and local communities.

Three years later, HVP underwent a full FSC assessment by five SmartWood experts, which included site visits to forest areas, individual and interest group stakeholder meetings and interviews, as well as extensive telephone and email communications. HVP also has agreed to annual on-site audits by SmartWood auditors.

“Hancock Victorian Plantations (HVP) is very pleased to become the first major forest manager in Australia to receive Forest Stewardship Council certification,” said Kevin White, Chief Executive Officer, Hancock Victorian Plantations. “FSC certification of Hancock Victorian Plantations is recognition from a respected, international and independent third party of our company’s program of continuous improvement in forest management and environmental performance. Certification delivers accountability of our operations in a much more transparent manner, which is good for all our investors, our customers and anyone interested in our business.”

“This certification is a significant, hard won and welcome accomplishment for the Hancock Timber Resource Group and Hancock Victorian Plantations,” said Bruce McKnight, vice president for forest stewardship globally for Hancock Timber, which provides management oversight of the HVP investment for various Australian and North American superannuation funds.

“We have been working with SmartWood for more than three years. We are pleased now to be able to offer our customers in Australia and elsewhere the opportunity to incorporate the use of FSC-certified raw material into their products.”

HVP voluntarily maintains around 30 percent of its holdings for plantation protection, conservation and other community values. These “custodial lands”, which contain important native vegetation, are preserved from harvesting.

Forest certification provides a means by which retailers and consumers can evaluate the origin of forest products and consider the impact of their production on the world’s forests. Certification gives consumers the option of “voting with their dollars,” of choosing wood and wood products that come from sustainably managed forests. SmartWood certification ensures that timber harvesting is ecologically and silviculturally sound, and socially and economically beneficial to local communities. SmartWood brings foresters, manufacturers, conservationists and consumers together to improve forest management.