Four years ago when a doctor from Mangakino Health Services opened a bank account for a firewood club, the banker said "not many other practices around Taupō do this".
All geared up for their fifth winter, Mangakino Health Services practice manager Charlene Campbell said the Mangakino Firewood Bank was born out of a Ministry of Internal Affairs pilot community-led development project.
Pilots were run in four areas in New Zealand; Whirinaki, Mt Roskill, North East Valley, and Mangakino.
The pilot ran from 2011 to 2016, with health and wellbeing an action area leading to the launch of Cozy Homes, a project about saving power and keeping homes dry, and in turn this resulted in a firewood bank for Mangakino. Last year, in its fourth year, wood was delivered to 19 Mangakino families.
Charlene said creating the firewood bank addressed the local issue of firewood poverty, with the outcome being warm and dry homes.
Charlene said people pay money into the firewood bank throughout the year. The money is collected by Mangakino Health Services, and then a bulk firewood order is placed and paid for by Mangakino Health Services.
"This takes the pressure off community members from trying to find the money up front," said Charlene.
Anyone can put funds into the account, with no set amounts or frequency requirements.
"The Mangakino Firewood Bank is totally community driven and confidential," said Charlene.
The wood is mainly sourced from local Taupō supplier Woodfellas Firewood, and Charlene organises the loads and delivery times with each family.
"Dry, split wood is delivered to homes in plenty of time for winter."
Paul O'Grady, 57, has been a happy customer for the last four years. Due to an accident, he can't even lift wood, let alone chop it, and is full of praise for the firewood he gets each year through the Mangakino Firewood Bank. Paul says the wood is always dry all the way through, cut into nice small pieces, and most importantly it burns hot.
"This good quality firewood has made a massive difference to my life."
So far the wood's always been douglas fir, and Paul says the firewood is always clean and gives an economical burn.
"When the truck arrives, it is absolutely jam packed with wood, there are no gaps."
As for putting the money aside each week into the Mangakino Health Services firewood bank account, Paul says $10 a week is nowhere near as much as he spent on smoking.
"And having the wood delivered is a lot safer than me going into the bush and getting my own."
Firewood Gifted To 10 Families In Need
This year the Mangakino Firewood Bank was approached by Waikato River Trails and asked to make confidential referrals for Mangakino people in need who would benefit from a free load of firewood.
Waikato River Trails general manager Glyn Wooller said they knew there would be a good supply of quality firewood after they cleared away some old man pine trees from a bank next to the mountain biking track near Mangakino.
Teaming up with electricity generator and energy retailer Mercury to transport and store the wood, Glyn said Waikato River Trails was happy to give the firewood away to those in need.
"The [trees] were only going to get bigger and become a nuisance so we thought we would take them down."
An arborist was hired to cut down the trees and ring the timber, and then the wood was loaded onto a Mercury barge and taken by river to Whakamaru. Glyn said the work was carried out by two staff from Mercury and two staff from Waikato River Trails, himself and Andy, a former pilot who volunteered his time.
"This is the first time Waikato River Trails has collaborated with the Mangakino Firewood Bank and it's nice to have the opportunity to give something back to the community," said Glyn.
Mercury resource manager Alan Hurcomb said the company sent its barge up Lake Maraetai and loaded up the sawn-up timber and brought it back to their Whakamaru service depot to dry out. He said the firewood is now ready to be delivered to local families.
"We have a strong relationship with Waikato River Trails, so when they had the idea to log a big old pine tree and take the firewood out to the local community, we were happy to help.
"We're very happy to have joined with the other teams involved to be a good neighbour in the Mangakino community," said Alan.
Charlene said Mangakino Health Services had a look at their customer base and identified 10 or so families in the Mangakino community who will receive the wood donated by the Waikato River Trails and Mercury collaboration.
Among this year's recipients of free firewood there is a family where a person is recovering from surgery, a one-parent family with three small children, and an elderly person with limited mobility.