Review of NPWS gets underway today

A strategic review of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) gets underway today (Wednesday, February 3).

The review will assess the remit, status and funding of the NPWS division of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

It will be led by Dr. Jane Stout, professor in botany at the school of natural sciences, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) director Dr. Micheál Ó Cinnéide.

Purpose of review

The purpose of the review is to appraise the current operational model of the NPWS and to identify any issues, including structure, resourcing, staffing and governance, which need to be addressed.

Its recommendations will inform the future development of the NPWS to enable it to support Ireland’s biodiversity objectives in alignment with the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy and the forthcoming post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

Minister of State for heritage and electoral reform, Malcolm Noonan, said: “Ensuring that the National Parks and Wildlife Service is properly resourced, staffed and equipped to lead Ireland’s response to the biodiversity emergency is one of my key priorities as Minister of State for heritage and electoral reform.

In 2020, NPWS’s funding was 70% down on what it had been before the financial crisis in 2008. I increased its funding by 80% in Budget 2021, but there is much more to do.

“The scale of this government’s ambition for nature is unprecedented, and the recommendations of this strategic review will be critical in enabling us to meet that ambition,” he added.

Phases of review

The review of the NPWS will comprise three phases:

Phase 1: Extensive stakeholder engagement (both internal and external);

Phase 2: Assessment of NPWS capacity, resourcing, staffing, governance and other key operational aspects;

Phase 3:  Comparative desktop analysis of resources/structures of similar organisations in other jurisdictions and an overview of the role and responsibilities of other state bodies and their relationship with NPWS.

The review process is expected to be completed this summer, with publication of the report and its key recommendations to follow.

The Terms of Reference will be published in advance of the stakeholder engagement process, which will begin in the coming weeks.