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Australia feels the chill of winter due to nationwide firewood shortage

Monday June 21, 2021 - 21:43 EST

A crackling fire in the fireplace, smoke billowing out of the chimney, they are sure signs that winter has arrived in Australia.

But it might not be as common this year, as the nation grapples with a shortage of firewood. 

Alice Springs firewood provider Mark Probes said his business usually supplied between 700 and 800 loads of firewood during the winter months, but that would not be happening this year. 

"We do a lot of deliveries to people's home, [but] we've stopped deliveries altogether here," Mr Probes said. 

"We can't supply and plus I haven't got staff."

Supply up in smoke

Mr Probes said problems begun last year when the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Australia.

"A lot of the wood that gets cut comes out of New South Wales, goes to Adelaide, and they cart wood up here," he said.

Interstate demand during the year had choked supply into the Northern Territory. 

"Adelaide has got a massive shortage because they've had a [COVID-19] shutdown. So everyone was sitting at home burning firewood because that was through the winter shutdown," Mr Probes said. 

"So supply died off here, and then they stopped supplying us altogether because it's just as easy to go and sell their firewood down there for top dollar." 

He said it was possible to get firewood sent to Alice Springs, but not without a hefty premium.

"I'd have to get my price up by probably 30 per cent ? [but] all I'd get is rubbish on social media saying 'what a rip-off'." 

He said all staff could do was promise customers they would let them know when wood arrived.

"The best we can do is ring you if we get wood, but it hasn't been happening."

Wood collecting warning 

Mr Probes said he was not expecting to see an increase in supply until next year. 

"A lot of the time they cut green [wood] and then dock it up for the year after," he said.

"Because of COVID no one was cutting, so you've got a gap year of no wood on the ground."

So if you can not go and buy wood this year, is there somewhere you can go to collect it for yourself? 

NT Parks and Wildlife said there are rules preventing people from taking wood from national parks. 

"You're certainly not permitted to collect firewood to take home for you," Central Australian Parks director Chris Day said.

"There is a bylaw that specifically states that persons must not remove dead wood from a park or reserve ? and the penalty units are worth $158 at the moment.

"We'll certainly be keeping an eye out ? if we do see anyone with a huge load or a trailer ride, then we'd be pulling them up."


© ABC 2021

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