Micheal Collins, Rural Independent TD for Cork South West – who is a member of the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee, this week challenged senior departmental officials on the appalling situation within Ireland’s forestry sector, at a specially convened committee hearing.
Speaking today (Thursday 16th September), from Leinster House, Deputy Collins stated:
“Ireland’s forestry regulatory system is in shreds, with afforestation rates – crucial to helping in the fight against climate change – on the floor. The government are unapologetically abandoning this crucial sector.”
“At this week’s meeting of the committee, I challenged the Secretary-General of the Department of Agriculture on why all forestry projects continue to face very long delays to gain the necessary approvals for felling and other work. This failing is leading to a wood shortage and massive price hikes in construction materials.”
“This failure on the part of the Department of Agriculture has caused the country’s afforestation rates to drop by over 60 per cent, farm forestry programmes are nearly dead, and the entire regulatory system is broken.”
“The Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue must get serious about this ongoing problem. It is essential to address the logjam situation if we are to successfully use forestry to sequester large amounts of carbon and fight climate change.”
“At this point, my colleagues and I in the Rural Independent group, believe that the Government are utterly dragging their feet on this issue and are lacking the motivation and desire to bring forward the rapid solutions that are required.”
“For instance, the Government has earmarked the planting of 8,000 hectares of forestry per year. However, information made available to the Agriculture Committee this week by officials will likely mean that only around half of this target will be met this year.”
“The Joint committee was informed prior to the summer recess that an average of 100 licences a week would be needed to meet the overall target for the year but in July and August, only around 34 licences per week were approved.”
“This cliff-edge drop in productivity has gone on far too long. So far, the Agriculture Minister has failed to resolve this issue despite calls on him to do so for well over a year now.”
“The Minister must now finally intervene and resolve this issue once and for all. The backlog in licences must be addressed in a meaningful, accountable and urgent manner.”
“This ongoing lack of action is crippling the entire forestry sector and having a knock-on impact on many other sectors.”
“The only response by the Department this week to undertake an expensive and lengthy consultant’s report is utterly inadequate. This approach is akin to kicking the can down the proverbial road. A solution-driven approach is needed so that the logjam can be cleared now.”
“My colleagues and I are calling for the Minister to directly intervene with an immediate solution. We will be challenging the Minister on the floor of the Dáil on this issue at every opportunity,” concluded Deputy Collins.