April 17, 2013  |  Adjournment

State forests: firewood collection

I raise a matter for the attention of the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, and it relates to firewood collection in state forests. I ask the minister to take action to make more firewood available in state forests in areas close to and surrounding rural communities.

This request comes after a number of my constituents living in or near Wombat Forest have expressed to me their frustrations regarding this issue.

One of these constituents comes from Glenlyon. He 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 in the Middleton Creek area. He was quite pleased by that, and he was able to go there, 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, but then he went only 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 they said that the area had been burnt as a planned burn but that there was another area available to him in Barkstead, but that is over 30 kilometres away. He asked why they burnt the area of firewood timber near his place, given that it was designated as a firewood collection area, instead of leaving the wood for people to collect.

Another resident from the Malmsbury area contacted me to say that when he contacted DSE he was told that the firewood area that was closest to him was nearly 40 kilometres away. He further questioned the DSE staff member about that and was advised, ‘That’s all we have’. As constituents remind me, natural gas is not available to them and liquefied petroleum gas is a very expensive alternative, so I ask 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 an opportunity to collect the firewood that is available. We know that 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. I ask the minister to look into these matters and bring about a better result for the surrounding residents.