Harder to keep home fires burning

CHEAP firewood from Kopper’s Wood Products at Mountainview would have to be one of Grafton’s worst-kept secrets, and while it’s still cheap, times are changing.

Up until this year, anyone with a car trailer could visit the production site and load up to capacity with hardwood log ends for $10 to $15.

But safety concerns have prompted the company to change its firewood policy.

Now only “reasonable-sized” tip trucks will be able to access the timber, which will be loaded by a Kopper’s bucket loader and charged at $20 a tonne.

Kopper’s general manager Paul Wallbank said the company’s main issue at the site was the control of traffic.

“We had cars moving on and off the site while there was a lot of heavy machinery and trucks moving around ... we had to change things,” he said.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, we’ve been here for a long time ... it’s about keeping our employees safe and it’s also about manual handling.

“The weight of those blocks, we just don’t want people getting hurt.”

In recent years the company started providing firewood fossickers with hard hats and safety vests to wear while on site but it is understood some gatherers were not wearing the safety equipment and others were loading up while wearing open footwear.

“It’s not possible for us to keep safety boots in every size,” Mr Wallbank said.

Mr Wallbank said traditional firewood customers were now organising their own larger transport and splitting a load between several parties.

The Examiner spoke to two such customers who lamented loss of the previous bargain wood but did not blame Kopper’s for the decision. One man, who preferred not to be named, said he knew of pensioners who sat in the dark at night because they couldn’t afford to have a light on and this change of Kopper’s policy was another blow to them.

“How can a pensioner afford to heat themselves now? Where before for $30 and the goodwill of their relatives they could stay warm all winter, now, they have to fork out $150 (including transport) and who can store that much timber?” he said.

“It’s a shame and it’s just a sign of the times but people are doing it tough.”

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