Laws carrying tougher penalties for activists who trespass on primary production land may have been recently passed in SA, but it hasn’t stopped trespassers from targeting local farms with the intent of theft.
Glen and Jayne Tilley own a 1,900 acre cropping and sheep property along the Tarlee Road just out of Kapunda, and have once again been targeted by firewood thieves this season.
“Obviously this time of the year people are looking for firewood and I guess this is a cheaper way to get them by, so this is their way of doing it,” said Glen, who sits on the board of Livestock SA.
The area being stolen from is a former quarry which the Tilleys have been rehabilitating.
After the 2015 Pinery Fire burnt through the area, Glen cleaned up with the assistance of friends from the Angaston Agricultural Bureau, stacking lengths of wood on the site back off the road.
“The thieves spotted that and then they’ve come in and picked up a lot of it,” said Glen.
“I’ve had a long association with the Angaston farmers and they were good enough to come and help, and then somebody comes in and helps themselves. It’s disappointing.”
Now there is evidence of thieves returning again this year, despite Glen having installed locks on the gate and signage.
“Obviously these measures aren’t a deterrent to the thieves,” he said.
Glen notes the stealing of firewood is just part of the bigger issue of farm theft in general.
“We’ve lost a generator, people lose tools, they get batteries taken out of vehicles, stuff like that, so the whole thing of being a property owner is these other issues are a significant nuisance to us,” said Glen.
“We’re conducting our business, I mean, I don’t go and take fruit off their trees in their backyards. It’s just disrespectful and an invasion of our privacy.”
Senior Sergeant David Walker of the Nuriootpa Police said reports of firewood theft in the area are common, including recent activity in nearby National Parks and forests.
“These thieves are motivated by the value of the wood and have been seen cutting down trees in the more remote parts of these areas,” he told The Leader.
“We have some known persons of interest and will work with forest management to prosecute any person committing these types of offences.
“The best way for the public to help is to be vigilant; phone and dash cameras capture excellent evidence. If this is not possible, take a licence plate number and note the physical description of any person that you see acting suspiciously.”
There is a limit to how much firewood can be collected, even legally on private property.
According to the Department for Environment and Water, landholders can collect up to six cubic metres of firewood on their own property, provided it is not under a Heritage or Management Agreement.
Dead trees and hollows provide important habitats for native fauna, including possums, birds, reptiles and insects.
As well as his own inconvenience, Glen is aware of the environmental cost firewood thieves incur if too much is taken or without due care.
“We certainly have an empathy for conservation,” said Glen.
“We’ve had this fenced off for years as part of the quarry rehabilitation, just letting it go back to it’s natural state.”