Alarm at tree harvesting

Malmsbury East residents have become increasingly alarmed at the number of live trees being cut down, chopped up and removed from the Metcalfe Forest, between the Calder Freeway and Malmsbury-Metcalfe Road.
One resident contacted local authorities and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in 2018 when this activity was first noticed, and again earlier this year, but said they were frustrated that the environmental vandalism had continued uninterrupted over the past two years, increasing in scale and brazenness over the past few months.
“We presume the harvesting is for possible commercial firewood use because the operation appears professional,” the resident said.
“Despite DELWP fixing some ‘small’ signs advising that firewood collection is not permitted in this area, no policing or surveillance appears to have been done in at least the past 18 months.”
DELWP’s regional manager of forest fire operations, Paul Bates, said authorised officers were responding to several reports of illegal firewood collection including the Malmsbury area, and warned offenders faced significant penalties if caught.
“Under the Forest Act 1958, people who collect firewood outside designated collection areas or season, or take more than the maximum allowable amounts, can face fines of up to $8261, or a maximum penalty of one-year imprisonment or both, if the matter proceeded to court,” Mr Bates said.
“Commercial firewood suppliers must have the appropriate licences and permits to collect and sell firewood obtained in Victoria.
“Domestic firewood collection is allowed in designated collection areas during a firewood collection season, and people may collect up to two cubic metres per day and 16 cubic metres per financial year.”
Mr Bates said authorised officers regularly patrolled parks, forest and reserves and would act against illegal firewood collection because of the negative impact it had on forest health, wildlife habitat, public safety and the sustainability of firewood resources that local communities relied on.
To report illegal or suspicious behaviour on public land, contact DELWP on 136 186.
For more information, including rules about firewood collection on public land, go to www.ffm.vic.gov.au/firewood

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