Poor political and departmental leadership is contributing significantly to the ongoing crisis being experienced within the private forestry sector, according to Independent TD for Cork South-West Michael Collins.
Deputy Collins made his remarks during a meeting of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The Committee was examining forestry policy and strategy with representatives from Irish Timber Council CLG as well as representatives from The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA):
“What emerged quite clearly from our discussion is a sense of absolute frustration at the institutional inability of the Department to overcome or remove bureaucratic inertia and convoluted procedures that are acting like a slow-release poison within the forestry sector,” said Deputy Collins.
“Indeed, after hearing from our witnesses, the words ‘streamlined and functional’ are not terms that anyone would ever associate with the Irish forestry services approach to this crisis; yet that is precisely what we all need the service to be.”
“There is simply no genuine understanding of the problems being faced by farmers or private foresters who wish to plant. Instead, they are being confronted by a grants system that, almost perversely, acts as a major financial disincentive.”
“I spoke to one farmer who removed a substantial amount of trees affected by Ash dieback at a cost of €15k but who was only entitled to €5k in grants.”
“I was appalled, but not surprised to hear from the Irish Timber Council, that by its reckoning the sector is experiencing the lowest level of planting since 1943. In terms of outcomes reflecting the value of strategies-that is nothing short of breath-taking.”
“We need a radical overhaul of existing strategies and we need a clear-out of those within the Department who are clinging to an excessively bureaucratic model that is, quite frankly, killing off one of our most important indigenous sectors,” Deputy Collins concluded