Firewood collection areas and limits must be reviewed in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina said she has called on the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio to review and loosen firewood restrictions on behalf of Gippslanders.
“Many Gippsland households are dependent on wood heating and with so many people at home due to COVID-19, far more firewood than usual will be needed to keep families warm this season,” said Ms Bath.
“With people’s movement’s restricted and majority of Victorians working and learning home, we need improved access to firewood to allow homes to be heated far more than usual.”
Under COVID-19 stage three restrictions firewood can continue to be collected for home use.
Ms Bath said firewood is an essential for many households and it is legal to collect it from designated collection areas in state forests during specified times of the year.
“For many rural households, wood heating is their only form of home heating, while others are unable to afford the luxury of electricity or gas to warm their homes during the colder months,” said Ms Bath.
“Due to the current circumstances, Minister D’Ambrosio must increase the number of designated firewood collection areas, increase the allowable limits and extend the collection season this year so people can keep warm as they are confined to their homes.”
Ms Bath said the designated firewood collection areas in Gippsland continues to be an ongoing issue causing great frustration and angst, particularly with elderly constituents.
“Following the East Gippsland bushfires, the allocation this year has been labelled as unreasonable. Much of the available wood is green, while many collections areas are only accessible by four-wheel drive,” said Ms Bath.
“A global pandemic is not the time for Minister D’Ambrosio to play games and semantics around firewood collection, she must relax the rules for this season and allow rural families to stay warm this winter.”
Ms Bath said she will continue to lobby the Andrews Government for better access to firewood in Gippsland.
“With the extra difficulties being faced by communities at the moment it is imperative Andrews Government provides Gippslanders with better access to firewood.