Firewood frenzy

June 07, 2018

A limited amount of stockpiled wood from Murray Valley National Park’s thinning trials is causing a frenzy in the local area.

More than 300 permits for the 1000 tonne stockpile at Mathoura have been processed so far.

The amount of interest last week forced National Parks and Wildlife Service to temporarily suspend new applications ‘‘due to congestion issues at the Mathoura mill’’. It has since been lifted.

At the time of going to print yesterday, permits for collection at Deniliquin’s Gulpa Sawmill had been temporarily suspended due to the volume of interest.

The stockpile had only been delivered yesterday morning. Firm figures for Deniliquin permits were not available at the time of going to print.

Mathoura residents have raised fears there will be no firewood left when their permits are finally accepted, especially after they had witnessed long lines of utes and trucks collecting from the stockpile.

They are particularly concerned none will be left for the elderly or sick, who cannot physically collect wood from the forests.

NSW Member for Murray Austin Evans said based on preliminary numbers he had access to last week, he believes ‘‘interest will possibly exceed what is available’’.

The same concern has been echoed by long-time Mathoura woodcutter John Hickey, who also queries the amount being made available to the general public.

Mr Hickey said his understanding was that logs felled in thinning trials would all be made available to the public, as per a 2012 agreement.

He said it was superseded last year ‘‘without public consultation’’ by NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro when he vowed to give the allocation to the commercial timber industry.

He said that decision has substantially cut the amount available to the public.

‘‘I worked for the company that won the tender to do the thinning, and it was my understanding that what came out of the forest would be enough to last four years (as firewood),’’ Mr Hickey said.

‘‘Now it’s been given to commercial enterprise and only part of it made available for firewood.

‘‘It will be gone in a month, because people can come from the entire collection area to collect the wood.

‘‘They’re trying to keep up with the permits, and I think they have bitten off more than they can chew.

‘‘You can only collect from the Mathoura sawmill on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the other day there were 15 to 20 utes and a couple of small trucks lined up outside before the mill even opened.

‘‘It’s a big strain on the 1000 tonne that’s there.’’

Gulpa Sawmill owner Ben Danckert said the amount of wood to come out of the thinning trials is expected to be far lower than was initially predicted by the NSW Government.

In making his announcement last year, Mr Barilaro suggested an estimated 15,000 tonnes of timber would be available.

Mr Danckert said while final tallies are yet to be completed, the final amount is believed to be less than half of that prediction.

With stockpiled wood now also available from his Deniliquin business on Mondays and Wednesdays, Mr Danckert is urging people to ‘‘be patient’’.

‘‘Deni is a collection point as well and we expect to have the same level of excitement (as in Mathoura),’’ he said.

‘‘The permit system is being handled by National Parks and does take some time to happen.

‘‘We will be doing everything we can to get people their wood as quickly as possible.’’

Permit holders can access up to six tonnes of the stockpiled firewood per household each year. It is available for $25 a tonne or $12.50 per tonne for pensioners.

With long lines of cars seen queueing for wood in Mathoura already, Deniliquin and Mathoura residents have expressed concern to the Pastoral Times in relation to the amount being collected from the stockpile by permit holders.

Mr Evans said while the wood is available to anyone in the collection area, he asked residents to use some common sense.

‘‘There is still wood collecting available in some parts of the forest but we know not everyone can go out and get it themselves,’’ he said.

‘‘Those who can should be encouraged to collect their own, and leave the stockpile for those who can’t.’’

Mr Hickey, who fully supports reopening the National Park to commercial harvest, also criticised a decision to make stockpiled thinning trial wood available in Barham where there are working forests available for timber harvesting.

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