Hackett: 4,700 forest licence applications currently in system

There are approximately 4,700 forest licence applications currently in the system, according to Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine with responsibility for forestry, Senator Pippa Hackett.

The minister of state provided an update on current numbers of forestry licences under consideration by her department, following a discussion on the matter in the Seanad this morning (Wednesday, December 2).

Commenting on the update, Minister Hackett said: “Like any licencing body, my department receives new applications, and issues new licences continually throughout the year.

“This means there is a constant turnover of applications with applications at various stages of processing. We update our licencing output to stakeholders each week through a dashboard.

“It is also timely now to update the volume of licences currently on our worklist for processing as we approach the end of the year.”

The update on licences on hand at the moment are as follows:
  • There are approximately 4,700 forest licence applications currently in the system, and at various stages of processing;
  • Of these, approximately 2,000 have been referred to ecologists for an appropriate assessment, and a backlog has built up over the last 18 months. These files are being dealt with using a dedicated project plan which was shared with the stakeholders on its publication in July;
  • The remaining 2,700 licences are generally not subject to the delays currently being experienced with licences requiring ecology input;
  • So far this year, the department has issued 2,330 new licences. 570 of these licences have issued since the introduction of the new forestry legislation at the beginning of October.

Minister Hackett said she updated the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture on the department’s efforts to resolve current licencing issues.

She claimed: “We also updated the committee on the number of files currently being processed as part of the ecology backlog. I will be writing to the committee with full details this week.”

Continuing, the minister of state said: “We are continuing to invest heavily in resources to help drive output.

“At the beginning of the year there were just two ecologists working on applications, but now this figure is 16; and my department is adding to this team.

“Additional forestry inspectors have also been hired to support this work. We are keeping these resources under review, and will continue to invest and recruit.”

The minister of state claimed that the additional resources “are showing early signs of progress with significantly increased output in October and November compared to other months this year”.

“While there is still some considerable way to go, I am encouraged by this early progress, and intend to sustain and build on this output of licences issued each week,” Minister Hackett said.