Ceisteanna–Questions. Priority Questions. - National Development Plan.

Michael Bell

Question:

2 Mr. Bell asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources the plans and proposals, if any, he has for his Department's share of the £40 billion indicated in the National Development Plan 2000-06; the detailed programme, if any, his Department has of funding for individual sectors of the fishing, forestry, mining or environmental sectors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24363/99]

The national development plan provides £938 million in EU and Exchequer funding for marine and natural resources as follows: seafood industry, £171 million; forestry, £592 million; coastal protection, £35 million; sea ports, £46 million; inland fisheries, £24 million; marine tourism and leisure, £20 million; marine and forestry RTDI, £50 million. An outline of plans for the funding of the individual sectors is included in the plan but will be developed in more detail in the preparation of the individual programmes under the plan on economic and social infrastructure, employment and human resources, the productive sector and the two regional programmes.

Investment in the seafood industry will support the development of seafood processing, the expansion of aquaculture, enhanced safety, quality and efficiency of the fishing fleet, development of infrastructure and onshore facilities in fishery harbours, training programmes and marketing strategies. Investment in forestry will support extensive new planting, development of roads and harvesting, and training. Investment in coastal protection will preserve economic and public infrastructure and areas of ecological importance; investment in regional ports will support infrastructure and improve capacity utilisation; and investment in inland fisheries and marine tourism and leisure will support the sustainable development of these resources for tourism and leisure.

Both the marine and forestry sectors have important roles to play in the national development plan, given their importance to rural communities and their potential for contribution to economic and social development, particularly in the less developed rural and coastal areas. While not included in the NDP, investment in oil, gas and mineral exploration by the private sector will continue to be encouraged through fiscal incentives.

Since tabling the question I got a copy of the programme and many of the points in my question are largely answered in the document. Under the existing programme some of the funding allocated under a variety of headings may not be used because the programmes have not been developed. Will the Minister indicate if he is confident the allocations under the various headings in the national plan can be met and if that will be dealt with in a co-ordinated way on a sectoral basis in the Department?

I have no doubt the money will be drawn down in this period and it is probable that it will be drawn down before the end of the period of the plan. The Deputy is correct in that difficulties arose previously in some areas where the capacity to develop an investment was not sufficiently advanced. In the case of the inland fisheries, great difficulties were experienced in the early years but the money was allocated to worthwhile projects in the later stage. All the money allocated will be used up before the end of 1999. From now on there will no difficulty in making use of the money.

Under the programme £35 million is allocated for coastal protection. While that appears to be a great deal of money, coastal protection works are costly. Will the Minister indicate the quantity of work that can be achieved by spending that amount on coastal protection?

Local authorities also contribute towards many coastal protection works and such contributions would be additional to the £35 million allocated under the programme. Up until last year less than £1 million per annum was allocated to coastal protection and most of that allocation came from the EU. The budget provided for an allocation of approximately £4 million per annum for coastal protection and that together with the allocation from the EU brings the yearly allocation up to £5 million. That means much more work can be carried out. A total of £5 million for each year of the programme can be spent on coastal protection, which is an excellent plane of expenditure from which to be working. More work in this area may be undertaken. Some coastal protection works may cost £150,000, £200,000 or £250,000 and others may cost £1.5 million. The increased allocation means we will be able to undertake much more work than we were able to tackle in the past.