Community & Business

20 June, 2024

Woodchopping comps axed at local shows

WOODCHOPPING events will not be seen at annual shows around the Far North region this year due to the unavailability of blocks for the events.

Steve Jensen has been a regular competitor in woodchopping at local shows and other events.
Steve Jensen has been a regular competitor in woodchopping at local shows and other events.

Around 600 blocks are required to service the annual shows around the region, including Malanda, Mossman, Atherton, Mareeba and Cairns.

But this year, all woodchopping events, except for Cairns, have been cancelled because the North Queensland Axemen’s Association cannot source the timber due to the unusually boggy conditions caused by an extended wet season, especially in the southern parts of the Tablelands where the logs are often obtained.

The Malanda and Atherton areas have both recorded around 2.5m of rainfall since early December.

It is understood that Cairns will source blocks from the Tully area for its show competition.

NQ Axemen’s Association member Ken Olney, who has been involved with woodchopping for 18 years, said the continued rainfall had made it impossible to access the timber - mostly candlenut or milky pine – from the places available to them.

Now the rain has finally stopped, but it is too late to try to source the blocks and areas they usually tap into are still too wet to get equipment in.

“It’s just been the weather – you can’t get in and it’s too late now, we do not have the time to do it,” Ken said.

“I know a bloke in Atherton with a property on a slope and he’s only been able to access his paddocks last week because up to a fortnight ago there was still water lying in them.”

Woodchopping has been a mainstay of annual shows for more than 100 years and is one of the most watched highlights of the events, with crowds flocking to see people standing on logs, axes swinging, chips flying - the competitive cutters in action. 

Quite a few of the regular woodchoppers for the Far North’s shows travel to the region from as far away as Tasmania and New Zealand but they may be cancelling their trips now that the decision has been made to axe the woodchops at all but one show.

Ken said it was hard to find good wood for the competitions.

“It’s very labour intensive – you’ve got to get the right blocks for someone to put a $700 axe into it,” he said.

“They have to be straight and they have to be stored correctly – sometimes sealed so that they won’t break down.”

Ken said he was also aware that due to government restrictions on harvesting timber, it was getting harder to source timber.

“You can find good spots that can provide timber for quite a while - we had a good spot in the Gordonvale which gave us blocks for two years,” he said.

He was aware that due to strict regulations in Victoria, block for woodchopping events this year would have to be obtained from Tasmania. In March last year, it was widely reported that a court ruling made in November 2022 was inhibiting timber harvesting in areas managed by VicForests in order to protect endangered gliders. 

When Malanda Show Society received notice from the Axemen's Association on 7 June that there will be no woodchop events across Far North Queensland this show season, they immediately put a notification on their Facebook page.

“This decision impacts all far northern shows,” the post stated.

“Due to the significant deluge of rain received across the region for the first half of the year timber required for woodchopping is unattainable.

“This section of our show is hugely popular and will be sadly missed at the 2024 Show. Here is hoping that they can make a return for the 2025 Show Season.”

Commencing in Australia 150 years ago, over 62 countries have now taken on woodchopping as a sport, with people aged from 7-90 taking part.


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