Wednesday, 6 November 2019
Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage
Alice Mary Higgins (Independent)
I thank the Minister of State especially for his consideration of my amendment to move from a comparison model to a consideration model. That will vastly improve the operation of this section. I also thank him for his assurances regarding SACs. I look forward to consideration of this provision in the Dáil and that will assist matters. The mechanism as currently provided for in the Bill does not mirror the 2014 review in that it required a full overview of all 75 raised bog NHAs. It was a comparison on a full scale as part of the wider audit and consideration. This relates to my amendment No. 50, with which we have yet to deal, which seeks to ensure we will have that same overview. Environmental criteria in this section relate to specific proposals that may relate to a specific dedesignation prospect. For example, it could be geographically limited or it could be one bog, as the Bill provides for, versus another bog. That is why I was keen to ensure all those factors would be properly considered.
Some of what the Minister of State said has given me some comfort regarding the process. It is vital we move past a blunt comparison tool. It will also be vital that before he gets to the point of making proposals and considering environmental criteria in this section that he has at his disposal a full audit and report particularly of blanket bogs. My chief concern when it comes to blanket bogs and a comparison model is that we do not want to do anything that would create a perverse incentive where people might be encouraged to act on the basis of knowing that a more degraded bog compared to another bog may be dedesignated. We certainly do not want to create any inadvertent or inappropriate incentive.
I will press the amendment on principle but I acknowledge the distance we have travelled.