Written Answers. - Forestry Officers.

Austin Deasy

Question:

85 Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry if he intends appointing additional forestry officers throughout the country in view of the heavy workload to which existing officers are subjected. [1804/96]

The introduction of the CAP afforestation grant scheme and forest premium scheme with their highly attractive grant rates has led to a rapid growth in plantings in recent years. Last year saw the highest level of plantings on record at 29,000 hectares. Of this a record 17,300 hectares was private afforestation and planting by farmers accounted for some 85 per cent of private afforestation.

The success of the afforestation scheme has meant an increased workload for all officials in the forest service in my Department. However, a range of measures have been undertaken to cope with the increased level of activity.

Since mid 1994 certain forestry contracting companies may undertake the initial site assessment work originally undertaken by the Department inspector. The operation of this self-assessment system, which is monitored closely by the forest service, has proved to be very effective, and an increasing proportion of applications are being processed this way.

During 1995 a complete review of administrative procedures in the forest service was undertaken to accommodate the increased workload and streamline the service provided to applicants as provided for in the farmers charter. A review of the Department's technical inspection procedures is being undertaken with the aim of achieving further efficiencies in the system and to process applications rapidly. Moreover, by way of increased staffing, three inspectors formerly on land duties will be assigned in June 1996 to inspectorate duties in the forest service on completion of their retraining on forestry matters at UCD.
The staffing position will be kept under review.