See NPA media release below.

SMH Story Sat 28/4/01 on Page 3 with prominent NPA comment. Coverage on Saturday on ABC Radio News, ABC ACT interview, 2WS and 2UE news.

National Parks Association of NSW Media Release
28 April 2001


The National Parks Association of NSW calls on the NSW Government to limit the State's use of firewood following revelations in today's Sydney Morning Herald that most of the wood sold by Sydney's big firewood companies comes from clearing of Queenslands threatened ironbark and box woodlands.

"The firewood industry is large, but mostly unknown", said Andrew Cox, NPA Executive Officer. "About 1.5M tonnes of firewood are used by NSW each year, exceeding the State's yearly combined production of sawlogs and woodchips."

"Firewood collecting is the second largest threat to Australia's temperate woodlands after land clearing. Now its being linked to landclearing!"

"We know little about the impacts of firewood collecting and governments have been slow to take an interest. Most firewood consumers are unaware of where their wood comes from or the huge impact it has on threatened animals, birds and reptiles."

"There needs to be a national approach to a national issue. NSW is now implicated in the tragedy of woodland loss in Queensland. But its also a serious problem for the declining NSW woodlands", said Mr Cox.

"Firewood collecting targets slow-growing ecosystems and some of their most important components. Eucalypt species such as ironbark, box and red gum are the most favoured firewood sources."

"We need to move away from the need to 'clean-up' a forest or woodland and instead look at dead wood as an important ecological component - just as important as the living trees."

"Its because we're not properly managing the woodlands that a wave of bird extinctions is underway in central NSW. More than 20 woodland dependent birds are declining from their former range and may become extinct in NSW."

"NPA calls on the NSW Government to urgently develop its own firewood strategy. As a start it should support a strong ANZECC firewood strategy and introduce measures modelled on the successful ACT firewood strategy."

NPA is holding a Firewood Conference in Armidale on 25 and 26 May to discuss the issues and explore options for reducing the environmental impact of firewood collection. A similar conference will also be held in Launceston on 18 and 19 June.

Contact: Andrew Cox 9299 0000 or 0438 588 040

ABC Radio
Sat, 28 Apr 2001 9:39 AEST
LOCAL NEWS : New South Wales

Firewood from endangered Qld woodlands used in NSW

The National Parks Association says firewood from endangered Queensland woodlands is being used in homes across New South Wales.

The association's Andrew Cox says the New South Wales Government should tighten the industry's regulations and encourage consumers to find alternative heating methods.

He says land clearing is having a devastating impact on the environment.

"It's not ecologically sound, it's not sustainable and there are serious impacts on birds, on animals that depend on the hollows," he said.

"Reptiles, snakes and it's just not these animals that are going into extinction and this is part of the cause."

Up in smoke: bulldozed in Queensland, burnt in Sydney
Date: 28/04/2001

By James Woodford, environment writer

Landclearing in Queensland is becoming the major supplier of Sydney's quality firewood.

Most of Sydney's big firewood companies now rely on the Sunshine State for a significant proportion of ironbark and box logs - highly sought-after timbers because of their density.

But no-one knows for sure how much timber salvaged from the bulldozed woodlands of Queensland is making its way south of the border in convoys of semi-trailers. Firewood collection operates in a legal vacuum - especially on private land - and virtually no figures are kept for where wood is sourced or how it is collected. The Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council is now finalising a strategy that will detail the Federal Government's attempts to curb the environmental impacts of firewood.

The draft report, A National Approach to Firewood Collection and Use in Australia, proposes accreditation for firewood collectors, listing critical areas where firewood harvesting would be banned and an education campaign highlighting the importance of dead trees for biodiversity. According to the draft report, the national consumption of firewood is 6 million tonnes a year.

But conservationists, including executive officer at the National Parks Association, Mr Andrew Cox, fear the draft will be watered down and that unchecked timber harvesting from private and public lands will continue.

The association is organising a firewood conference at the end of next month in Armidale, which will bring together scientists, bureaucrats, industry and political leaders.

Mr Charlie Spiteri, the owner of Betta Burn Firewood, one of the biggest suppliers in Sydney, refused to reveal how much firewood he supplies each year but estimates that the Sydney region, including Katoomba, consumes about 100,000 tonnes.

He said about a third of his supply was sourced from Queensland, where the wood is worth between $40 and $50 a cubic metre. By the time the freight reaches Sydney, it is worth up to $125 and is being snapped up. "People are choosing ironbark and box and we have to go where the timber is," Mr Spiteri said.

He said his contractors sourced wood from Queensland farms that were mopping up their paddocks rather than clearing virgin woodlands. "Firewood is only a byproduct of landclearing," Mr Spiteri said. "If we don't take it, it is pushed into piles and burnt. It's taking a resource that is going to be squandered anyway."

Other major sources of hardwoods for Betta Burn include Pilliga State Forest in north-west NSW and private properties in the Nyngan area.

Mr Spiteri said he had mixed feelings about the new report. While he would welcome a standard for firewood, he warned that if the rules were too strict they could harm small operators who were already struggling.

Armidale firewood collector Mr Peter Howarth, 57, has harvested timber most of his life. He said more controls over the industry were needed and that the price of firewood should increase "to eliminate a lot of people who don't need to use it".

But if firewood collection was done properly it prevented waste, he said. "Otherwise what are the landholders going to do with the wood - push it up and burn it?"

Story Picture: Mr Charlie Spiteri, of Betta Burn Firewood, Kellyville, with some of his timber. Photo: Rick Stevens

Andrew Cox
Executive Officer
National Parks Association of NSW
PO Box A96, Sydney South NSW 1235
Tel: 02 9299 0000; Fax: 02 9290 2525

30 March 2001

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