Speed and timing of forestry bill ‘reflective of grave circumstances’ – Hackett

The timing and speed of the Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020 is “not ideal” but is reflective of the grave circumstances in the forestry sector at present, according to Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Pippa Hackett.

The ‘super junior’ minister with responsibility for forestry spoke yesterday (Wednesday, September 30) in a debate about the proposed bill, which later passed through Dáil Éireann.

“I know there were concerns about the timing of the bill and the speed at which it is being pushed through the Oireachtas procedure, and I share that concern,” Minister Hackett said.

“It is not ideal and it is not a situation I am particularly comfortable with.

It is, unfortunately, reflective of the grave circumstances in this sector and of the real risk to many thousands of jobs based in rural areas.

As a result, it is “absolutely imperative” that the bill be supported, the minister added.

“The announcement of the public consultation at the end of July brought about exponential growth in the number of appeals and put more pressure on the system.

“This bill has been greeted with some contention but it is just one step which is absolutely necessary,” the minister argued.

Fees

Turning to the question of fees, and how much they would amount to for submissions and appeals, the minister said:

There is an issue with fees. The purpose of this legislation is, in part, to align the system with the planning system, in which the charging of modest fees for submissions and appeals is well established.

“This provision is Aarhus compliant, as is the bill,” referencing the Aarhus Convention, a set of rules to promote the involvement of citizens in environmental matters and improve enforcement of environmental law.

Commenting on the robustness of the legislative scrutiny of the bill, Minister Hackett said that it was examined by the Attorney General, while the Aarhus unit in the office the Minister of Environment, Climate and Communications was also consulted.

We are satisfied, therefore, that the bill and the modest fees, which I indicated would be in the region of €20 for a submission and €200 for an appeal, are compliant with the Aarhus convention.

“The fees are not intended to remove people from the process. It is reasonable to recoup some of the costs of the appeals process,” the minister concluded.