April 24, 2013

Firewood Collection in Central Highlands up in Smoke

Last week Geoff Howard MP, State Member for Ballarat East, asked in State Parliament to make more firewood available in State Forests for regional Victorians who rely heavily on firewood to heat their homes over winter.

This request was made after a number of residents living in or near Wombat Forest expressed their frustrations regarding the collection of firewood from designated areas.

One local resident from Glenlyon was advised by the former Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) at the start of the collection season that there was a collection area near him near Middleton Creek, although he was advised at the same time that firewood collection could not start until two weeks into March because of the extended fire danger season.

He understood that, so in March he went into that area and was able to collect a trailer load of timber.  He returned two weeks later to find that the area had been entirely burnt out by a planned fuel reduction burn.  He was clearly very frustrated by this and asked DSE staff about it, and was advised that the area had been burnt as a planned burn and the next nearest firewood collection area was at Barkstead over 30km’s away.

Other residents have also expressed their frustration that not enough firewood is being made available at sites within reasonable distance from their communities.

Given that natural gas is not available in many of these communities and liquefied petroleum gas is a very expensive alternative, Mr Howard asked the Minister whether it is possible to undertake planned forest-thinning works in areas of reasonable proximity to surrounding communities and also not to undertake fuel reduction burns in these areas until after residents have had ample opportunity to collect the firewood that is available.

“There are plenty of good reasons to thin many sections of the Wombat State Forest, and doing this in a planned way could be of great benefit to the residents of the surrounding communities, and better planning of fuel reduction burns would obviously also assist,”  said Mr Howard.

“It is reasonable for the Minister to instruct his department to show consideration for local residents and maximise their potential to collect firewood from designated areas before planned burning takes place,” he said.