Wed, Aug 4, 2021 4:47 AM

Council's dead wood warning

Matt Brown

Wood washed away in floods is off limits warns council as people are caught making the most of the post storm debris.

Taking fallen wood washed down the river is banned, say Marlborough District Council, with fines and potential prison sentences possible for offenders.

But the notice was widely panned online, with social media comments calling the move “pathetic and petty”.

A notice issued by council last Friday warned people off looking to make the most of the flood provided fuel to heat their homes, citing concerns for the safety of staff and the public.

Marlborough District Council assets and services manager Richard Coningham says a small number of people have ruined it for everyone else.

“These people - there are around a dozen of them - consistently, throughout the year, take wood from our reserves, which usually includes the cutting down of live trees,” he says.

“They don’t differentiate between post-storm debris and going in regularly to cut down healthy trees.

“They also sell this firewood to line their own pockets, at everyone else’s expense.”

“How pathetic and petty can the council get,” one social media comment says.

“Taking that wood prevents it causing problems when floods happen. It's cleaning up a mess that you 'the council' will never do. Have a heart. Learn to give instead of taking.”

Another comment questioned whatever happened to the permit system, which allowed people to fill a trailer from felled trees.

Richard says there was a permit system in the past.

“There is an unspoken rule in Marlborough that after a flood, it is acceptable to reclaim branches and trees from our river bank areas,” he says.

“However unfortunately in recent years a small number of people have spoiled it for everyone else.”

Richard says there are also health and safety issues.

“Just last week a man on a night raid managed to pin himself under a large tree trunk for some hours,” he says.

“He suffered moderate injuries and serious damage to his chainsaw. Another guy got stuck in his four-wheel drive.

“Our Reserves Rangers are regularly threatened by these individuals, so the police are often required to assist us to trespass and prosecute them.”

Offenders caught taking wood from the river reserve face being trespassed by council.

Ignoring the trespass order could net fines ranging between $200 and $1000 – and up to three months in prison.

“From a legal point of view it makes life difficult for both the Council and the Police to trespass people if we allow some members of the public to collect wood legitimately while we have to trespass and prosecute others,” Richard says.

“The most cost-effective way to manage this - given both the council’s and the police’s limited resources – is to have a complete ban on collecting all firewood from the river reserve.”