Tipperary Sinn Féin TD Martin Browne has questioned why unspent funding in forestry was not funnelled into additional supports for the crisis-hit sector instead of being dispersed elsewhere.
Teachta Browne said:
“The crisis in the forestry sector has resulted in a €7 million underspend on forestry by the Department of Agriculture this year. This was confirmed to the Select Committee on Agriculture this week by the Minister responsible.
“The Minister told the committee that the saving has arisen because new planting is much less than anticipated at the beginning of the year and that current licensing delays are a contributory factor.
“This blame for this lies solely at the door of the Department and reveals the extent of the crisis.
“But another matter of concern is how the Department would not redistribute that funding to provide enhanced supports for the forestry sector who are tackling the prevalence of Ash Dieback.
“Incidentally, it cost the Department €7 million to clear and replant over 1,000 hectares of infected and associated ash plantations by the end of 2019.
“If there was any ambition within the Department to address the dissatisfaction with the current Reconstitution and Underplanting Scheme for foresters with Ash Dieback on their plantations, the €7 million could have contributed to establishing a fit for purpose scheme.
“I told the Minister that this news will infuriate the sector that has repeatedly called for a better Ash Dieback scheme and that is struggling to cope with a terrible licensing system.
“As of September of this year, Co Tipperary had the highest number of applications for the RUS Scheme at 39. Only 13 had been approved, while many other foresters will not be able to get the supports they actually need due to the inadequacy of the current scheme.”