‘Forestry bill must be passed this week to deal with major sectoral crisis’ – Nolan

The Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020 is due to be debated in the Dáil tomorrow Tuesday September 29 and Wednesday of this week.

Independent TD for Laois-Offaly Carol Nolan has confirmed that she has submitted a number of amendments to bill.

Deputy Nolan said that the Dáil must act “swiftly and decisively” to ensure that the bill achieves its objective of addressing the ongoing crisis in the forestry licensing and appeals system.

Deputy Nolan said:

The urgency and importance of this bill simply cannot be overstated and that is why we have to make sure that the bill which emerges at the other end of the legislative process is fit for purpose and actually helps the sector.

“I have been in contact with strong local employers like Coolrain Sawmills and indeed self-employed forestry sector workers and they are all absolutely clear [that] the current system is not fit for purpose and that the ability to operate and plan is being impeded by what they have rightly termed administrative inadequacies and procedural barriers, which exist nowhere else in Europe.

“The submissions from local forestry sector employers in Laois-Offaly also make it clear that the appeals system has to be radically reformulated to prevent the volume of appeals, both vexatious and otherwise that are holding up the entire sector and thousands of jobs to ransom,” she added.

Amendments to forestry bill

Nolan has submitted amendments to the forestry bill which she says “seek to empower those within the sector to get on with making a living and offering sustainable employment”.

It is vital that this bill moves through the Dáil and is signed into law as quickly as possible.

“The forestry sector cannot afford any more delays to a system that is already overwhelmed with a backlog of appeals,” concluded Deputy Nolan.

Appeals

The number of forestry appeals received by the Forestry Appeals Committee (FAC) so far in 2020 – some 689 appeals – is almost three times the amount received in 2017 and 2018 combined, which was a total of 231.

In a recent response to a parliamentary question, Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue said:

“We have proposed new legislation amending the Agriculture Appeals Act which is designed to align forestry licensing appeals process with best practice in other appeals processes.

“For instance, it includes proposals for the appointment of deputy chairpersons and the creation of sub-divisions of the main committee which will increase capacity to hold hearings. Certain other efficiencies in the operation of the committee are also proposed,” he said.