Council ends roadside firewood collection
Roadside firewood collection permits will no longer be issued by Council, after a report was presented to Councillors at its January 2015 Ordinary meeting.
In mid-2011 Council commenced the issuing of permits for collection of firewood from local roads following a decision by the Department of Sustainability and Environment to cease the practice of providing approval to residents.
In direct response, Council developed a permit process to facilitate the continued access for residents to collect firewood from roadsides, utilising the already established Works in Road Reserve Permit.
Permits were being issued for a 12 month period and did not include a limit on the volume of firewood that could be collected.
However, during the past four years, the collection of firewood along roadsides has been identified as an activity that carries a degree of inherent risk and cost to Loddon Shire Council. This, combined with the relatively low number of permits issued over the last four years, has led Council to withdraw all future approval for this activity along our local road network.
Council did not come to this decision lightly. Significant consideration was given to the benefits afforded to local residents by being able to source limited quantities of firewood from roadsides, in contrast to the legislative and operational risks associated with the activity.
Ultimately however it was agreed that the scheme has proved difficult to administer, difficult to comply with, and has not had a lot of use.
The main complication for Council with continuing the scheme centres around the protection of the environment under current legislation, meaning that, where the best firewood was located was also classified as being of high environmental value and as such fallen timber was unable to be taken.
Another complication was the fact that, within one road, there could be sections of low, medium and high conservation value, as determined by the North Central Catchment Management Authority. This has the potential to create confusion and requires an overly complex system and set of restrictions to address.
Council would be carrying joint liability if it issued consent for firewood collection, and the person holding the permit carried out works that may violate environmental protection laws. These laws are enforced for the protection of significant roadside vegetation and ensure there is no detrimental impact upon local habitats.
Council also noted that from an administrative perspective, the costs and resources associated with running the permit process is difficult to justify given the limited relative benefit to those undertaking collection in the low conservation areas where they are allowed to operate. The nature of the activity is restrictive, with minimal locations nominated as approved areas.
Given the risks associated with the collection of firewood, Councillors voted to stop the issuing of any future permit applications effective immediately.
In making this decision to suspend the issuing of permits, Council has brought Loddon Shire in line with many of its neighbouring councils and the majority of municipalities across the state.
Council will honour all current permits, but will not renew them as they expire. All residents should be aware that conducting unauthorised works within Council’s road reserves can attract penalties of up to $1500.
In substitution of the former permit process from Crown land collection, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning - Forests and Reserves operates an annual program, providing various locations of Crown land reserves as community firewood coups. For more information about the coups, visit the DELWP website and follow links to /forestry-and-land-use/forest-management/firewood.
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