Firewood shortage expected

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by Chris Tobin

Dry firewood around Timaru is predicted to be in short supply this winter.

“In January, February and March we sold so much we couldn’t stock for the winter,” wood merchant Ash Collett said.

Supply had become harder to find because China was paying so much for top-grade logs, Mr Collett said.

In addition, the “weekend warriors” could not access supply on farms because farmers did not want to run the risk of accidents occurring and being hit with health and safety fines, he said.

Another fulltime firewood seller, Peter Goodman, said people would have to expect plenty of wet, green wood this winter.

“There are too many fly-by-nighters out there now,” he said.

“I’m only looking after my regular customers now.”

He said Environment Canterbury (ECan) was allowing reputable wood merchants to close but not doing anything about the “fly-by-nighters”.

At a glance

Facts regarding wood burner use in Timaru.–

About 7500 homes are potentially using wood for home heating.

According to ECan data, 38% of these have a wood burner that is older than 15 years (non-compliant). Not all of these homes are using their wood burners (i.e. they may use a heat pump).

In 2018, 629 building consents for wood burners were issued.

So far in 2019 139 building consents for wood burners have been issued.

In the last 12 months several fulltime operators in South Canterbury have either closed or stopped selling dry wood.

ECan Timaru operations manager Judith Earl-Goulet said ECan did not regulate wood sellers.

“We do not have a role in regulating business for wood sales or any requirements associated with that.

“Wood merchants have the opportunity to voluntarily participate in our Trusted Good Wood Merchant programme, where suppliers are reviewed and accredited by Environment Canterbury for providing dry, seasoned wood.

“It is a customer’s choice who they purchase from.

“However, wherever possible we encourage and promote the use of trusted good wood merchants for people to secure dry, seasoned wood that burns clean.”

Dion Anderson, another fulltime operator, expected to have a good year regardless of competition from part-timers.

“If someone sells wood and if it’s green the people who’ve bought it are not supposed to burn it.

“It’ll be a good year for me; we sell out every year.”

“I can never supply enough wood.”

As of January 1, burners installed in Timaru must have ultra-low emissions.