My Department carries out an annual targeted programme of works to manage the spread of the invasive species rhododendron in Killarney National Park. The extent of the problem varies from area to area within the park and the programme and control methods used are regularly reviewed and refined to respond to the dynamic and vigorous nature of the plant in order to mitigate its impact. While a wide range of control methods are considered for this purpose, those chosen are generally selected on the basis of optimum effectiveness, having regard to the most efficient use of available resources. Despite the challenging budgetary constraints of recent years, my Department continues to commit a significant portion of its available funding towards this important programme.
Deputy McLellan previously requested a breakdown of certain expenditure in respect of this work. I appreciate her forbearance while my staff have collated the relevant historical data, much of which predates the formation of my Department in 2011.
I should clarify that the sum of €500,000 referred to in the question relates to the period since 2011 only.
As advised by letter to Deputy McLellan last week, my Department has expended €898,590 in total on the programme since 2009, broken down as follows: €819,633 on external contractors; €55,206 on costs associated with volunteer work camps; and €23,751 on related supplies, equipment etc. used by volunteers and Department staff in the clearance programme.
Between 2005 and 2008, a total of just over €1.9 million was spent on contract work on the programme. While precise figures are not available for this period for costs associated with volunteer work camps or supplies, it is estimated that these costs were of the order of €20,000 per annum and €5,000 per annum, respectively.
The work involved is arduous and resource intensive, and is carried out by outside specialist companies, Department staff and by volunteer groups under staff direction and supervision. In this regard, I would like to recognise the important contribution, both past and continuing, of volunteer groups to this work, and also the innovative work of my own Department's staff in Killarney National Park, who have been instrumental in developing new methods to control this plant.