Regulatory Impact Statement: National Approach to Firewood Collection and Use in Australia

Environment Australia, 2001

Strategy 4. Increase Effectiveness of Regulations

The objective of this strategy is to increase the effectiveness of existing regulations and controls across Australia to protect threatened species and ecological communities from the impacts of firewood collection. Proposed actions include:

  • Consider listing firewood collection (or a related process) as a threatening process;
  • Ensure commercial firewood collectors conform to existing statutory codes of forest practice on both public and private land;
  • Prohibit firewood collection from affected 'critical habitat' areas.
  • Increase enforcement activities and monitoring of existing regulations in important habitat areas.

A qualitative assessment of potential impacts of these actions on Governments, firewood collectors, merchants, and consumers and environmental values follows:

Action

Consider listing firewood collection (or a related process) as a threatening process.

Impact on Government

  • Impact here and on other groups depends on listing occurring and specifics of follow-up action. If listed, Commonwealth and State Governments would bear administrative costs.

Impact on Collectors

  • If listed, there will be a reduction in access to firewood in some locations - eg some remnant box-ironbark woodlands.

Impact on Merchants

  • If listed, potentially some increased costs in sourcing firewood from alternative locations.

Impact on Consumers

  • If listed, movement away from using firewood by environmentally aware consumers.
  • Potentially increased costs of sourcing firewood passed on from firewood merchants

Impact on Environment

  • If listed, in the long term, amelioration of the impact of firewood collection.

Action

Ensure commercial firewood collectors conform to statutory codes of forest practice on both public and private land.

Impact on Government

  • State governments will cover the cost of increased compliance surveillance.

Impact on Collectors

  • Where not already complying, need to spend greater time and effort learning and conforming to statutory codes.

Impact on Merchants

  • Where not already complying, some increase in costs of firewood due to collectors passing on increased costs of compliance.

Impact on Consumers

  • Where not already complying, possible increase in price of firewood as merchants pass on increased costs.

Impact on Environment

  • Some improvement where statutory codes protect the environment where previously they did not.

Action

Prohibit firewood collection from 'critical habitat' areas.

Impact on Government

  • Covering the cost of increased surveillance and policing will be born by state or local government. Nature conservation agencies will have to expend resources in defining 'critical habitat' both geographically and ecologically. Need to clearly justify defining critical habitat and communicate this to firewood collectors.

Impact on Collectors

  • If areas, such as grassy white box woodland, are declared 'critical habitat' then some small-scale collectors may face higher collection costs or go out of business or risk punitive fines if alternatives are not available. Those who collect for their own use may also face reduced access to firewood.

Impact on Merchants

  • Little impact on large wood merchants as they can source their supplies from elsewhere. Some smaller merchants who are only supplied locally may experience difficulty if the bulk of their supply is from 'critical habitat'

Impact on Consumers

  • Maybe some local shortage of supply, but this is unlikely as critical habitat species only form a small fraction of the total firewood collected.

Impact on Environment

  • High benefit to critical habitat may act to restore ecosystem function.

Action

Increase enforcement activities in important habitat areas.

Impact on Government

  • Covering the cost of increased surveillance and policing will be born by state or local government. Need to fully inform collectors, merchants and consumers of existing laws controlling firewood harvest.

Impact on Collectors

  • Greater likelihood of apprehension of illegal firewood collection and resulting fines. However, as collection is wide spread and on private land there are difficulties effectively tightening control

Impact on Merchants

  • Some restriction of supplies if merchants currently source firewood collected illegally

Impact on Consumers

  • Probably high level of support especially as it involves strengthening enforcement of existing laws. Likely to increase use of more environmentally friendly firewood.

Impact on Environment

  • Better biodiversity conservation and increasing amounts of dead timber to maintain ecosystem processes.