Illegal firewood harvesting on the rise – Andrews Labor Government to blame.
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Throughout Victoria – illegal firewood collection as a result of the end of the sustainable native timber industry has taken hold in some of our most valued and rare ecological gems.
In remote areas and rural towns – particularly in low socio-economic situations firewood is often the sole source of heating and is particularly important for those communities where power supply is at the mercy of natural disasters.
With the recent decision of the Andrews Labor government to cease all native timber harvesting within the state, firewood supplies are under increasing pressure – with firewood suppliers including East Gippsland commercial firewood operator Malcolm Beveridge fearing for the future – “We’re just not going to be able to produce enough affordable firewood for our town and family – we’re still doing it at the moment as we have a small amount of logs left but come next winter the community will have no firewood”.
With the reduction of firewood supply from the sustainable Victorian timber sector at around 35,000m3* due to the cessation of VicForests operations and the predicted increases to firewood cost statewide – illegal firewood harvesting operations and the resultant impacts on rare and threatened environments are increasingly visible.
Instead of past timber sector operations that harvested just 5 in 10,000 trees statewide annually from non-endangered forest types which was then regenerated according to strict protocols – this firewood now has to be sourced elsewhere, with illegal firewood harvesting booming in rare vegetation communities Victoria wide.
Victorian State Government agencies including Victoria Police, the Conservation Regulator, Parks Victoria and Forest Fire Management Victoria have made headlines recently as they prosecute those for illegally harvesting firewood within parks and reserves from all over the state with state Chief conservation regulator Kate Gavens disturbed by the illegal harvesting that is commonplace “We are seeing quite significant amounts of illegal take of firewood, and cutting down trees in State Forest and in National Parks across the state”.
FWCA Executive Officer Mick Harrington recently took a drive on the backroads between between East Gippsland towns of Stratford and Bairnsdale – where the illegal harvesting was obvious “Within around 30 minutes I witnessed a vast quantity of Forest Red Gum and Red Box trees cut down for firewood, not only is this affecting the rare ecology of this remnant vegetation, some of the tree harvesting was within 5 meters of the Princes Highway, an obvious safety issue”.
Anecdotally, this is just a drop in the ocean – with Facebook marketplace flooded with illegally harvested firewood from roadsides, parks and reserves that are host to rare and threatened vegetation communities including the Barmah-Millewa forest – the Worlds largest River Red Gum forest, as well as the Moormung Flora and Fauna Reserve in the states east – home to the nationally endangered (EPBC listed) Gippsland Red Gum Grassy Woodland.
Simply put the end of sustainable native timber harvesting in common vegetation types throughout Victoria has resulted in a shockwave of illegal harvesting in our most at risk vegetation types throughout Victoria – that society has a duty to protect.
Decisions made in isolation by academics, activists and politicians without considering the broader context are always doomed to have perverse and unintended consequences – and this the perfect illustration of exactly that.