Bunnings is continuing to sell Tasmanian tree ferns at its garden centres despite a campaign from Blue Derby Wild against the practice of removing them from native forests for distribution by third parties.
The ferns - Dicksonia antarctica - are sold primarily to be planted in gardens, and variously as sliced stumps advertised as "fern stepping stones", as whole stumps, or as "tree fern planters" for a garden feature.
They are removed from native forest coupes subject to logging throughout Tasmania, but Blue Derby Wild has claimed it has evidence that the ferns are taken from coupes that are yet to be logged.
The group believed Bunnings had stopped selling them online as they no longer appeared in searches, but Bunnings confirmed it was still selling them online and in store.
Bunnings merchandise general manager Adrian Pearce said the ferns were "recovered from sites specifically approved by the Forest Practices Authority", the statutory body that regulates Tasmania's forest management.
"We work with our greenlife suppliers to ensure all the plants we offer customers are responsibly sourced and grown," he said.
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"We are careful to ensure we only buy recovered tree ferns from licenced suppliers that provide products with tags issued by the regulator. Our team won't accept recovered ferns outside this process and customers can check they are compliant by looking for a tag on each plant.
"We always respect community feedback and we are in contact with Blue Derby Wild to discuss the matter further."
Blue Derby Wild launched a campaign earlier this month to raise awareness of the issue, and 1500 people have signed a letter to Bunnings urging the company to stop the practice.
The two parties will discuss the matter over video-call, but Blue Derby Wild co-ordinator Louise Morris said they wanted to be able to show Bunnings staff the logging coupes in the North East.
She said some areas that were "rich in tree ferns" were targeted despite them not being logged, with tags allocated following a pre-survey, disputing the effectiveness of the regulator FPA.
"We want them to come on the ground so we can show them the before and after, and then what happens after logging," Ms Morris said.
"Once they see it in real life, the penny will drop.
"If they're relying on the FPA as the regulator, it's like the fox guarding the hen house."
Tasmanian tree ferns can be hundreds of years old and do not survive the logging process. They grow 3.5 to 5 centimetres per year and produce spores at the age of about 20 years.