Wildlife (Amendment) Bill 2016: Report and Final Stages

Amendments Nos. 1, 6 and 25 are related and may be discussed together. Amendment No. 1 arises out of Committee proceedings.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, line 5, to delete “raised”.

On Committee Stage, Deputy Ó Cuív proposed to amend the Bill to provide for the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to carry out further reviews of other natural heritage areas. The then Minister undertook to consider the matter further with a view to addressing same on Report Stage. The proposed Report Stage amendments provide for the widening of the scope of the Bill to enable the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, at his or her discretion, to conduct a review or reviews of other existing natural heritage areas as well as to continue and complete the 2014 review of the raised bog natural heritage area network. The proposed amendments are mainly within section 4 of the Bill, which inserts a new section 18A in the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 2 to 4, inclusive, 9 to 16, inclusive, 18 to 20, inclusive, and 24 are related and may be discussed together. Amendment No. 2 arises out of Committee proceedings.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 3, line 13, to delete “section 18A(4)(a)” and substitute “section 18A(5)(a)”.

The grouped amendments are technical in nature and arise from the proposed insertion of a new subsection (2) into section 18A and the resultant renumbering of subsections 18A(2) to 18A(7). Amendment No. 3 provides for the substitution of new text for the text of lines 20 to 23 in page 3 of the Bill. It provides that the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht will continue to conduct and complete the 2014 review of the raised bog natural heritage area network and may conduct a review or reviews of other natural heritage areas. This would be done under a proposed new section 18A of the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000. The intention of the amendment is to give the Minister the power to conduct a review or reviews of other natural heritage areas at some point in the future without obliging the Minister to do so.

Amendment No. 4 inserts a new subsection (2) within section 18A. It provides that a review or reviews are limited to the natural heritage areas in respect of which natural heritage area orders are in force on the date of the commencement of section 18A. If this amendment is accepted, section 18A(2) becomes section 18A(3) and similarly for sections 18A(3) to 18A(7).

Amendment No. 10 provides for widening the scope of section 18A(3), in respect of the carrying out of environmental assessments, to cover the proposals arising from a review or reviews of other natural heritage areas as well as from the 2014 review of the raised bog natural heritage area network. It provides that these environmental assessments would also be carried out, as required, in respect of the effects on the environment of the proposals arising from a review or reviews of other natural heritage areas. If Amendment No. 10 is accepted, section 18A(3) would commence as “The Minister shall, in relation to the effects on the environment of the proposals arising from a review under subsection (1)”.

Amendment No. 12 provides that the provisions of section 18A(4) would apply on the completion of a review or reviews of other natural heritage areas as well as on the completion of the 2014 review of the raised bog natural heritage area network. If amendment No. 12 is accepted, section 18A(4) would commence as "Having, on the completion of a review under subsection (1),". Section 18A(4) provides that the Minister shall, on the completion of a review of natural heritage areas, where he or she is satisfied that a natural heritage area order should be made, publish under section 16 of the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000 a notice of his or her intention to make the natural heritage area order and, where he or she is satisfied that land should cease to be designated as a natural heritage area, make an order to amend or revoke the natural heritage area order which so designated the land.

Amendment No. 24 is a technical amendment arising from the replacement of the definition of "habitat" with "bog habitat" and the consequent need for the deletion of the definition of "habitat".

I have only one question on the amendments. I might be on the wrong group. I understand that in one of the amendments, the Minister of State has included blanket bogs as well as raised bogs. This mechanism, convoluted and all as it is - there is a lot of process to be gone through before anything comes out of a natural heritage area, NHA - could be applied to a blanket bog in an appropriate case if the right scenario arose. That is the material change wrought by the Bill. I understand all the other amendments are technical and relate to names and bits and pieces that do not materially affect the Bill. Perhaps the Minister of State would confirm that. If I am speaking to the wrong group of amendments, I waive my right to speak on any of the others.

As already stated, on Committee Stage 1 December 2016 - a long time ago now - Deputy Ó Cuív proposed to amend the Bill to provide for the Minister to carry out further reviews of other natural heritage areas. The then Minister undertook to consider the matter further with a view to addressing this on Report Stage, which is what is being done now. This is to conduct a review or reviews of other NHAs as well as to continue and complete the 2014 review of the raised bog natural heritage area network. This is including blanket bogs as well in the process.

The word "raised" has been taken out with reference to the NHA bogs.

Yes, that is it.

I really appreciate this and think it is very good practice for Ministers at committees. Some are better than others. I think Deputy Heather Humphreys was Minister at the time. The current Minister, Deputy Madigan and the Minister of State are now accepting this change. As the Minister of State knows, there are some parts of controversial blanket bogs that people would argue should not be in on scientific grounds. It is good that there is now a mechanism in place whereby these can be looked at and I really welcome it. It looks like a very small change but it is considerable in terms of having a process in place. I hope the Minister of State will convey my thanks to the Minister for changing that.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 3, to delete lines 20 to 23 and substitute the following:

“18A. (1) The Minister—

(a) shall continue to conduct and complete the review of raised bog habitats, known for the time being as the 2014 Review of Raised Bog Natural Heritage Area Network, and

(b) may conduct one or more than one review of a natural heritage area (other than a natural heritage area falling to be reviewed under paragraph (a)).”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 3, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following:

“(2) A review under subsection (1) may be conducted only of a natural heritage area in relation to which a natural heritage area order is in force on the date of the commencement of this section.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 3, to delete lines 24 to 26 and substitute the following:

“(3) The purposes of a review under subsection (1) include:

(a) contributing to the achievement of nature conservation objectives of maintaining bog habitats at or restoring bog habitats to a favourable conservation status;”.

Amendment No. 5 provides for the substitution of new text for the text of lines 24 to 26 in page 3 of the Bill. It amends section 18A(2)(a) and provides that the purposes of a review encompass a review or reviews of other natural heritage areas as well as encompassing the 2014 review of the raised bog natural heritage area network. It also gives more clarity to the purposes of a review to include "contributing to the achievement of nature conservation objectives of maintaining bog habitats at or restoring bog habitats to a favourable conservation status." One of the main aims of the EU habitats directive is to ensure that the habitats and species listed in it achieve favourable conservation status.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 3, line 27, to delete “raised”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 4, line 2, to delete “national” and substitute “national, regional”.

Amendment No. 7 includes a reference to "regional" within the reference to "national and local economic, social and cultural needs" in section 18A(2)(b)(i) so that the reference would be to "national, regional and local economic, social and cultural needs". This reference to regional needs has been included given the wider range of the blanket bog natural heritage area sites in comparison with the raised bog natural heritage sites. If amendment No. 7 is accepted, section 18A(2)(b)(i) would refer to selecting the most suitable bog habitats "to be designated as natural heritage areas having regard to all of the matters referred to in section 16(6) and national, regional and local economic, social and cultural needs”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 4, line 5, to delete “national” and substitute “national, regional”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 4, line 7, to delete “(3) The” and substitute “(4) The”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 4, line 8, to delete “from the review” and substitute “from a review under subsection (1)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 4, line 16, to delete “(4) Having,” and substitute “(5) Having,”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 4, line 16, to delete “of the review” and substitute “of a review under subsection (1)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 4, line 19, to delete “subsection (3)(a)” and substitute “subsection (4)(a)”.

Amendment agreed to.

We will have to get the Minister of State in here more often. He is able to get through legislation at a fierce rate.

It is the Galway in him.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 4, line 21, to delete “subsection (3)(b)” and substitute “subsection (4)(b)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 4, line 30, to delete “(5) Where” and substitute “(6) Where”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 4, line 30, to delete “subsection (4)(b)” and substitute “subsection (5)(b)”.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 17, 26 and 27 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 5, lines 1 and 2, to delete “Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government” and substitute “Housing, Planning and Local Government”.

Amendment No. 17 arises from the change in title of a Minister. It provides for a change in the title of the relevant Minister to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government.

Amendment No. 18 is a technical amendment and provides that section 18(A)(6) becomes section 18(A)(7). Amendment No. 19 is a technical amendment and provides that the reference in section 18A(6) to subsection (4)(b) becomes a reference to subsection (5)(b).

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 5, line 10, to delete “(6) Section” and substitute “(7) Section”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 5, line 14, to delete “subsection (4)(b)” and substitute “subsection (5)(b)”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 5, line 15, to delete “(7) In” and substitute “(8) In”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 21:

21. In page 5, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following:

“ ‘bog habitat’ means a habitat within the meaning of section 2 of the Principal Act that contains bog and, other than for the purposes of—

(a) publishing a notice under subsection (5)(a), and

(b) making an order under subsection (5)(b),

includes a candidate special area of conservation or a special area of conservation, within the meaning of Regulation 2 of the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 477 of 2011), that contains bog;”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 22:

In page 5, to delete lines 16 to 19 and substitute the following:

“ ‘environmental criteria’—

(a) in so far as it relates to a raised bog, means the conservation value of the raised bog taking into account a comparison made between the area, range, habitat, structure, function and ecological features of that raised bog and those of one or more than one other raised bog, and

(b) in so far as it relates to a blanket bog, means the conservation value of the blanket bog taking into account a comparison made between the area, range, habitat, structure, function and ecological features of that blanket bog and those of one or more than one other blanket bog;”.

Amendment No. 22 substitutes new text for the definition of “environmental criteria” set out in section 18(A)(7). It widens the scope of this definition to encompass the conservation value of a blanket bog as well as of a raised bog. The definition has also been revised to bring greater clarity to it.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 5, between lines 19 and 20, to insert the following:

“ ‘favourable conservation status’ means the conservation status of a bog habitat when—

(a) its natural range and the areas it covers within that range are stable or increasing,

(b) the specific structure and functions which are necessary for its long-term maintenance exist and are likely to continue to exist for the foreseeable future, and

(c) the conservation status of its typical species is favourable;”.

Amendment No. 23 inserts an additional definition in section 18(A)(7) - “favourable conservation status”. This definition is derived from the definition of favourable conservation status in Article 1 of the EU habitats directive and in the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 5, to delete lines 20 to 28.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 5, line 29, to delete “raised”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 5, line 33, to delete “2016” and substitute “2018”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 5, lines 34 and 35, to delete “Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs” and substitute “Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht”.

Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I welcome that the Minister of State got this legislation taken here this week. I ask him to convey my thanks to Mr. Niall Ó Donnchú and Mr. Brian Lucas who have worked on this for a considerable time. This has gone on for two years. I welcome the progress made and I thank the Minister of State for his co-operation.

I congratulate Deputy Fitzmaurice. There was a long battle going on over this issue even when we were in government. It has been brought to a relatively satisfactory conclusion within the confines of EU law. I thank the Ministers, Deputies Humphreys and Madigan, and the Minister of State, Deputy Kyne. It is very appropriate that three Galway Deputies have been mainly involved in this evening's debate.

The Deputy should not forget the three Dubs who are in the Chamber.

They arrived subsequently, but they have not been involved in the debate. I am very careful with the wording.

We have two Dubs and a Kildare woman.

We are hanging on the Deputy's every word.

I am a Dub as well, when it suits.

This has had a major impact, particularly in east Galway. I believe it will lead to much better community relations. I believe it will lead to better conservation. The Minister of State represents the same constituency as I do. I always believe that the best conservation is when the local population are brought into the conservation and support it. The Bill creates that atmosphere and it will be the best thing for everybody in the long run.

I thank the Deputies for their positive engagement on the Bill. Obviously, I had not been part of it up to this. I acknowledge the work of the Ministers, Deputies Humphreys and Madigan, the officials, Brian Lucas and Niall Ó Donnchú, from the Department and others who have been involved. It is important that we have this positive engagement on what has been quite a controversial issue over a period of time. We acknowledge the positive engagement of stakeholders in trying to come to a resolution to this very important issue that affects many counties.

Question put and agreed to.