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Media Release
Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP
Federal Member for Murray

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
for the Environment and Heritage


25 May 2001

Firewood Conference burns the 'good oil' in Armidale


70% of households use firewood for heating in the Armidale region, consuming an estimated 20,000 tonnes per year. That's a lot of firewood. And that is the reason why the Federal Government's Natural Heritage Trust is sponsoring a two day conference in Armidale to discuss the impacts and environmental challenges of that great winter pastime - sitting in front of the open fire.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr Sharman Stone, officially opened the Armidale Firewood Conference today by highlighting that 7 million tonnes of firewood is harvested each year. That's the equivalent of Australia's entire annual export of woodchips.

"I would like to say at the outset that we are not in the business of banning the use of firewood", Sharman Stone said.

"An open fire in the middle of winter is one of life's great pleasures and is an important source of heating in cool climates, like New England, who do not have access to natural gas".

"However, there are steps that households with fireplaces should take to reduce woodsmoke and cut down on the amount of wood consumed. This can improve the atmosphere and the environmental impacts on the habitats of local flora and fauna".

"Simply educating the community about using wood that is dry can make an enormous difference to the amount of woodsmoke that pollutes our communities, causing health and environmental problems", Sharman Stone said.

"In some areas health of communities is being adversely affected by smouldering, smoky fires. There is also the issue of the effect that firewood collection can have on native timber and fauna if it is harvested in an unsustainable way".

"Dead timber hollows can be the breeding places for rare and endangered species".

"Although rural and regional Australia contain only 1/3 of households, those households consume 2/3 of all wood burnt in homes. We need to make sure that we handle the harvesting and burning of this firewood in a sustainable way".

"Wood lots not only can provide additional income for primary producers, growing wood for fireplaces protects our native forests from the weekend warrior with trailer and chainsaw who see no problem in driving into any forested areas and taking home a few cubic metres of fallen or fresh-felled wood".

"Too often licences for wood collection are not obtained and any roadside or forest is considered fair game", Sharman Stone said.

The Armidale Firewood Conference is the second in a series of conferences held in rural and regional Australia. A similar forum was held in Bendigo last year and Launceston will host a conference in late June.

"This Firewood Conference has received funding from the Federal Government's Natural Heritage Trust - the largest ever environmental rescue package in Australia's history".

"The 5 year, $1 billion extension to the Trust announced this week by the Coalition Government will deliver dollars to dozens of community groups in New England to continue their important work", Sharman Stone said

Contact:
Simon Frost 0419 495 468
May 25th, 2001

Commonwealth of Australia