A Hauraki iwi initiative to provide firewood deliveries could keep whānau homes warmer this winter.
The project follows a call from local kuia, Nancye Gage, about her concerns for many families living in cold and damp homes, unable to source firewood.
Ngāti Tara Tokanui Trust executive chair Amelia Williams wrote to the government, Department of Conservation and forestry company Rayonier Matariki Forests.
Together they came up with a plan using non-merchantable wood from plantations in Tairua and Athenree Forests. More than 100 homes could benefit.
Williams said whānau struggled to stay warm over winter and buying firewood was not affordable, so was normally collected from farms or roadsides.
However this year, the level 4 lockdown meant trees had to be left on the forest floor, unable to be processed into higher quality products, due to degradation.
"While there are many families living in unbelievably challenging conditions - some with up to 15 people living in the one house - we needed to prioritise our support to our most vulnerable, who are kaumātua more than 70 years of age with children and mokopuna in the house, solo parents and at-risk families on low incomes," Williams said.
The wood has been loaded onto trucks and transported to some Hauraki marae, and also the Department of Conservation's Hauraki District office in Thames.
It has also been distributed to families in Thames, Paeroa, Te Aroha, Waihi and Te Puru, and there is further work underway to supply Manaia, Whitianga and Wharekaho families from the Whangapoua Forest.