A theft of a large amount of firewood destined for a Hawke's Bay DHB firewood bank project has meant many families in need will not receive help to heat their homes this winter.

DHB housing project co-ordinator Keith Hamilton said about 26 tonnes of firewood had been collected ready for processing and was sitting in a secured paddock on the outskirts of Hastings when it was broken into last Saturday and between four and six tonnes stolen.

The thieves chainsawed a post so they could get a padlocked chain over a wire fence to open the gate and take the wood, much of which was sitting there in large 50cm diameter, two metre-long logs waiting to be cut up.

"They must have had a big truck and I think they chopped some of it up here but maybe not all of it - they were big logs," Hamilton said.

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The stack had equated to two years worth of wood for the Child Healthy Housing programme initiative, which was now reduced to one year's worth.

"I'm very disappointed - I was angry and used some rude words when I saw what had happened - I'm mainly feeling tired, it's taken so long to get this organised."

Much of the wood pile had been donated to the cause by Rayonier Matariki Forests, but other businesses and organisations had also got on board the project including Tumu Timbers, Hastings District Council, Hawke's Bay Regional Council, Hawke's Bay Fruitgrowers Association, and EIT.

Work began to source the wood and co-ordinate the project last year and the loss was a blow to the families who could have benefited.

To date this winter, about 60 families had received a cord of wood each to keep them going over the colder months.

Child Health Housing programme kaiawhina Marama Te Kowhai said the theft would impact on a lot of whanau who may have been able to be helped.

The wood only went to people who could not get it anywhere else and who may have already used up their Work and Income New Zealand grants on other necessities.

"A lot of these families are too scared to use power for heating because of the cost so they sit in the cold - one family who recently got a load of wood had two newborns in the house they were looking after.

"People are very grateful to get this help."

Since news of the theft had been reported on the Eastern District Police Facebook page, people had come forward with offers of donated wood, which Hamilton said he was following up.

Any further donations would be gratefully received as would volunteer help to cut the wood up. Call the Child Healthy Housing programme on the main Hawke's Bay DHB phone number.