The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, needs to start cracking the whip in the Forest Service section of his department or chaos is imminent in the forestry sector, according to Roscommon-Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice.
Speaking on the matter, he said: “Over the last eight to 10 months we have seen a situation develop where afforestation and felling licences have almost ground to a standstill because of EU law being tightly enforced in Ireland, as well as environmental lobby groups forcing the issue.
“The Government and the Department are well aware of this situation. Within the Forest Service of the department there seems to be massive problems, with files not being dealt with and with no apparent willingness among senior officials to resolve the issues facing the sector.
“This Government has indicated how it intends to move to planting 8,000ha of forestry per year. At the moment, it looks as if they are not able to cater for 1ha with the chaos that is going on.
“Much of the forestry machinery in the country – be it lorries, cutting equipment or forwarders – is on the brink of being parked up.
“Large repayments outstanding on these machines will mean owners and operators will be put in a situation where unless they find felling work in other countries they will go out of business.
“The mills around this country are in danger as well of closure, or else they will have to look at significantly increasing the level of timber imported into this country. It would be rather ironic to see timber coming in through one port and departing through another after being processed here, while mature plantations are left in limbo here due to red tape.”
Fitzmaurice expressed his frustration that it appears as if European judgements and regulations are driving up the number of ecologists positions being created.
Continuing, he said: “In my opinion, environmental lobby groups are getting too much airplay and too much credence is paid to what they are saying.
“The minister in my view has problems within his department. Leadership has to be shown and senior officials within his department need to take the reins and rapidly address the issues facing the sector.
“There are allegedly hundreds of files in front of people in the department at the moment and nothing is being dealt with; this is a chaotic situation which has been allowed to get out of control.
“It is time that both the senior and junior minister in the department go over to Europe and explain the situation. They need to show some authority and demand changes which allow the forestry sector in this country to get back on track – otherwise job losses are imminent.
“The sad reality of European law – and ordinary people have to wake up to this – is that the way it is being pushed it seems as if more and more ‘makey-up jobs’ for the environmental lobby groups are being created, thus ensuring further red tape and an increase in problems for different land uses in this country.
“Forestry targets previously stated by this Government will not be met, simple as that, if the system is allowed to continue as it currently stands.
“Bluffing at this stage is not the answer. Minister Creed needs to look at individuals within his department and see if they are fit to carry out their roles. And if they are not, then give the position to someone who can deliver the required results,” Fitzmaurice concluded.
Michael Fitzmaurice 086-1914565