A Yarrawonga man who illegally collected and sold more than 60 cubic metres of firewood from Crown land was sentenced in the Wangaratta Magistrates’ Court in late March.
The man pleaded guilty to charges under three Acts for cutting firewood without a license, taking protected wildlife and undertaking an unauthorised timber harvesting operation in a State forest.
He was placed on a good behaviour bond for a period of two years and ordered to pay $2500 to the local Landcare group and compensation of $2,310 to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).
DELWP Program Manager, Compliance Operations, Greg Chant said firewood can only be collected from designated areas during the autumn and spring firewood collection seasons.
“Collection is subject to daily and yearly household limits and firewood can only be taken from the ground. Under no circumstances can trees be felled for collection,” he said.
The Court heard that from May 2017, compliance officers from DELWP and Parks Victoria actively monitored areas of Crown land at Colclough Bend, Norong for the illegal removal of firewood.
The accused was observed on a number occasions cutting up firewood, removing it from Crown land and transporting it to another property.
In June last year, officers executed a search warrant at the property and located approximately 10 cubic metres of River Red Gum firewood and seized several chainsaws, a hydraulic block splitter and a Nissan Navara utility which were all used to transport firewood from the public land to the private property.
Mr Chant said the investigation was part of Operation Block Splitter, a 2017 state-wide initiative targeting the illegal removal and sale of firewood.
Under the Forest Act 1958, people who collect firewood outside designated firewood collection areas and a firewood collection season, or take more than the maximum allowable amounts, can face an infringement notice of $634, or a maximum penalty of one-year imprisonment or a fine of up to $7,928 or both, if the matter proceeded to Court.
Items used to unlawfully collect firewood can also be seized and possibly forfeited dependent on the court outcome.
Any information the community may have about the illegal removal of firewood or the possession of protected wildlife can be reported to DELWP on 136 186.