Bringing in the good wood

Lions club firewood volunteers Bruce Furze and Dave Murray take a break. Photo: John Borren.

Who ‘wood’ have thought? Around a decade ago, members of the Tauranga City Sunrise Lions Club were brainstorming fundraising ideas, and thought selling firewood might be a good gig.

Armed with an axe and a farmer’s shed, they started chopping, splitting and selling.

“It was very primitive in those days, it was a very unsophisticated operation and very manual,” says club member Ken Evans.

Fast forward to 2019 and it’s now a very slick operation that shifts 300 cubic metres of firewood a year, with an annual turnover of $30,000.

The axe has been replaced by a “grunty” 40 tonne splitter, a 760mm circular saw and a variety of chainsaws, while the wood is moved around by two tractors and then dried out in 200 covered drying bins, which each hold a cubic metre of wood. The club also has two delivery vehicles at its disposal.

Supplied by arborists, who let the club know when they are cutting down trees around the city, the wood is collected by volunteers who deliver it to the depot in Greerton. Use of the land is donated free of charge.

“We work a lot with Tauranga Tree Services. They cut it into rings for us. We’re old fellas so they’ve got to cut it so we can lift it,” says Ken.

“We help them, they help us and the result is really, really good.”

When Ken says “old fellas” he’s referring to the fact that all the Sunrise Lions volunteers are in their 70s and 80s – the oldest member being 84.

“It keeps us active, we get comradeship and we’re helping the community. It’s win-win.”

The group meets every Tuesday to prepare the wood, in what is a year-round operation, supplying around 200 customers.

“We’re flat-out busy all year,” says Ken.

“The oldies in town, they know you get firewood in summer and put it in your shed to dry it out. The younger ones don’t know that, so we dry it for them. As soon as there’s a drop in temperature, they say ‘help, we need firewood’.”

A standard load of firewood is two cubic metres, and sells for $220 – with free delivery anywhere within the city boundaries.

Ken describes the wood as “liquorice allsorts” as it’s a mix of whatever wood they are supplied with, but coming from a generation who know their firewood, it all burns well.

The club currently has 16 members but is always looking for more, says Ken.

“We’d love to hear from anyone who would like to get involved.”

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