VANDALS are chopping down trees at a Crib Point reserve for firewood.
Mornington Peninsula Shire Council planning compliance manager Paul Lewis said the council was aware of the illegal felling and was investigating.
“The peninsula has less than 10 per cent of its original native vegetation left and the shire is serious about protecting it,” he said.
“Native vegetation is an important part of what makes our region such an attractive place to live.”
Resident Ross Mules said he had seen several men with four-wheel-drives and trailers in the past few weeks using chainsaws to fell gums up to 100cm across and cart them away.
The practice reflects claims in a daily newspaper that retail firewood suppliers are struggling to keep up with demand from customers forced to stay home in cold weather due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The reserve, owned by the Department of Environment Water Lands and Planning, is bounded by The Esplanade, Lorimer, Bay and Disney streets. It was previously earmarked for use by the Port of Hastings but has since been designated surplus to requirements.
“I’ve been here 12 years and this is the worst vandalism I’ve seen,” Mr Mules said. “It’s sad to see.”
Not all the firewood foragers live in the area. “One man with a chainsaw was from Somerville,” Mr Mules said.
“I told him the area was protected and that you can’t just come here without a permit and cut down trees. He said he was just collecting firewood.”
Another man in a black Ford Ranger with taped-over number plates had “quickly driven off” when Mr Mules approached. “That person obviously knows what he was doing was illegal,” he said.
“You can’t just cut down beautiful trees whenever you feel like it. One tree was almost a metre in diameter.
“Another man had a jerry can full of fuel for his chainsaw and had kids with him.”
Anyone with further information can call the council on 1300 850 600.
First published in the Western Port News – 12 August 2020