A new Strategic Action Plan for the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has been published today (Wednesday, May 4) by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, and Minister of State, Malcolm Noonan.

A full organisational restructuring of the NPWS and early recruitment of 60 key staff are actions announced under the plan, which includes investment of up to €55m over the coming three budgetary cycles.

Outlined actions are to be completed between Q2 this year and up to 2024, to ensure that the NPWS is resourced, equipped and has a robust organisational structure, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage said.

NPWS renewal

Launching the Strategic Action Plan in Ballykeeffe Nature Reserve, Co. Kilkenny, Minister Noonan said that the renewal of the NPWS is the keystone action in the government’s response to the biodiversity emergency.

The minister confirmed that the NPWS will be established as an executive agency, giving it a strong identity and a voice to speak for nature. He added:

“Its internal structures will be overhauled, delivering a stronger focus on external engagement and delivery of outcomes. New directorates, organised along functional lines, will benefit from the early recruitment of 60 key staff for critically important roles.”

The plan will equip the NPWS with the organisational capability and supporting structures to enable it to deliver its mandate in protecting Ireland’s natural heritage, according to the department.

Funding will also allow the NPWS to embrace Ireland’s ambitions for nature and help begin to turn the tide on biodiversity loss, Minister Noonan said.

Minister O’Brien added that it is vital to have a resilient and effective NPWS to perform significant policy and advisory functions, conservation, biodiversity protection and operational responsibilities in national parks. He added:

“I am happy for the dedicated expert team who have sustained the NPWS through so many years – with the implementation of this Strategic Action Plan, the future of the NPWS looks bright.”

The renewal of the NPWS is underpinned by a comprehensive expert review of the organisation which has been completed by independent authors, according to the department.

Meanwhile, the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) has welcomed the reform of nature conservation in Ireland, saying it is “the most important policy change needed for addressing the biodiversity emergency in Ireland”.

IWT campaigns officer, Pádraic Fogarty said “nature in Ireland has suffered terribly from the neglect of previous administrations, but we can now look forward to a fresh start”.

“The work is only beginning but today’s announcement gives us all hope that we can achieve great things,” he added.