Thursday, 15 July 2021
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
When Minister of State Pippa Hackett and I launched Project Woodland in February of this year, I had two objectives. One to address and review the forestry licensing system and the second was to agree a shared national view to long-term approach to forestry and woodland creation in Ireland.
I am pleased to say that the Working Groups under Project Woodland who are addressing these key issues are now well established and working very well. The Project Board which oversees their work is very actively engaged also having had eight meetings already and is shortly due to publish the first in a series of interim reports updating stakeholders on their work.
The review of the licensing process is a top priority and the regulatory review in particular is of key importance. This is a high-level review of the regulatory and planning process for forestry licensing in Ireland. I am anxious that this gets underway as soon as possible. Minister of State Hackett, who has overall responsibility for the sector, has asked the Project Board to examine how best we secure the services of an independent person or persons with appropriate legal and environmental expertise to carry it out.
It is intended that it include an examination of experiences in other Member States in licensing forestry activities and how they comply with EU legislation and from this what lessons we can bring to our licensing systems. Given the importance of this analysis, we will have to accord enough time for this review to be comprehensive in nature. I cannot at this stage say definitively when it will be completed but I would hope we would have a report in the Autumn.
Complementary to this review is the end-to-end process review of forestry licensing procedures and the IT system which is being conducted by an independent business analyst. There is a plan in place to finalise it by end August, at which stage it will then be examined by Working Group 4 and recommendations will be brought to the Project Board for consideration.
These two comprehensive reviews of the end-to-end licensing process and the regulatory framework will, I believe, lead to lasting improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the system and will help us better meet the needs of landowners, forest owners, timber producers and all involved in forestry in Ireland.