We will arrange for copies to be made available, if we can.
The development of an overarching national marine spatial plan was identified as a Government policy objective in Ireland's integrated marine plan, Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth. We identified that the organisation, regulation and protection of marine-based activity in Irish waters were being carried out on a sectoral and demand-driven basis, without a strategic framework in which sectoral policy objectives could be envisioned, planned for and delivered in the long term.
Marine spatial planning is also underpinned by EU legislation. The 2014 marine spatial planning directive established an EU-wide framework which defined marine spatial planning as a process by which the relevant member states authorised, analysed and organised human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic and social objectives. It is important that the words "social objectives" are included because during the last debate it was felt we were not prioritising them. Clearly, they are included at a European and national level. That is what this is about; it is not just about the economy. It includes ecological, social and economic objectives.
The directive details the main goals and minimum requirements for member states as balanced and sustainable territorial development of marine waters and coastal zones; optimised development of maritime activities and business climate; better adaptation to risks; resource-efficient and integrated coastal and maritime development; lower transaction costs for maritime businesses and improved national competitiveness; improved certainty and predictability for private investments; improved certainty in obtaining financing for investments in the maritime area; improved use of sea space and the best possible coexistence of uses in coastal zones and marine waters; improved attractiveness of coastal regions as places in which to live and invest; reduced co-ordination costs for public authorities; greater development of innovation and research; and enhanced and integrated data and information. From a previous role as Minister of State with responsibility for skills, research and innovation, I know that there is an opportunity. We invest a lot of taxpayers' money in the research and development agenda. We have Innovation 2020, a plan into which we all buy, which brings Departments together and involves the use of taxpayers' money and private sector investment. There is an opportunity at European level for Ireland to lead the way in research and innovation in this area, certainly in the marine sector. We should be proud of this and take the opportunity to do so. There is a lot of marine space under our watch and we should avail of the opportunities presented much more. I hope we will be able to focus on it more clearly.
We transposed the directive through the European Union (Framework for Maritime Spatial Planning) Regulations 2016 which were signed into law on 29 June 2016. The regulations identify the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government as the competent authority for marine spatial planning, reflecting my Department's track record and expertise in forward planning generally. Senators will be aware from our earlier discussion that I am proposing amendments to the Planning and Development Bill 2016 to replace the existing regulations with a new primary legislative basis for marine spatial planning. I understand people accepted this in the end and agreed that, even though the process is a bit short, on the importance of doing so. Hopefully we will all benefit from that as we move on to develop our strategy. I want to give MSP greater prominence and introduce new arrangements for the plan-making process including governance, public participation, review and Oireachtas involvement, to ensure that the processes for making Ireland's two long-term forward spatial plans, one marine and the other terrestrial, are consistent and fully aligned, with equal importance.
Working within the existing framework, the Minister, Deputy Murphy, and I launched Towards a Marine Spatial Plan for Ireland, a roadmap for the development of Ireland's first marine spatial plan, in December 2017. In the roadmap document, we have clearly set out the principles of engagement for this process. We believe that marine spatial plans should be strategic, concise and informed by effective public and stakeholder participation to ensure buy-in with regard to implementation. We genuinely want that stakeholder participation and public involvement. We will have to go to great lengths to get that public interest and involvement. We attend many school events relating to this space and there is a lot of interest from young people. We have to get the same interest from different generations and all their families, to really get involved in this process, to get behind it and to think about what the plans are for our marine strategy for the next 15, 20 or 25 years. Hopefully we will be able to achieve that through different mechanisms. It is important that we have these debates in this House to highlight the issue and get the discussion going. Even online polls get people interested in this and it is important that we have that, to have people speak up about this space. We will go to great lengths to encourage people to contribute to that.
The importance of involving all stakeholders in the marine planning and marine sectoral issues was raised repeatedly during our discussion last month on Senator Grace O'Sullivan's motions and I am deeply committed to that, as is the Minister, Deputy Murphy, and our Department. The participation processes for MSP are being designed, tailored and structured to ensure meaningful, informed and timely engagement with the plan-making process. We are committed to involving people early on in the decision-making process and in developing specific policy within the framework provided by HOOW; engaging with interested people and organisations at the appropriate time using tailored and effective engagement methods, allowing sufficient time for meaningful consultation; and being adaptable, recognising that some consultation methods work better for some people and some issues and that a one-size-fits-all approach will not work.
I have met many of the groups involved. I am conscious that different forms of consultation will be needed and people will require different ways to get their thoughts together. It will not always be possible to have people together in one room, but we will go to great lengths to make sure that we get everyone's thoughts and initial concerns and deal with them as we go through the process to make sure we get the balance right as we develop this plan.
The process will also involve respecting the diversity of people and their lifestyles and giving people a fair chance to have their voices heard regardless of gender, age, race, abilities, sexual orientation, circumstances or wherever they live. It will involve being clear in the purpose of any engagement and how the public may contribute, letting people know how their views have been taken into account within agreed timescales, and making documents publicly available on the Department's website.
Senator Ó Domhnaill said that the feedback was not great. If people make a submission and if time allows, we could come back with feedback to explain why we did or did not take on board their thoughts. That would probably help further consultation. Although we want a national consultation, there may have been fewer submissions under the previous planning framework. We may have an opportunity to address that as best as we possibly can. When people get feedback it encourages more involvement. Another element is communicating clearly with people, using plain English and avoiding jargon as much as we possibly can given that it is a jargon-filled area.
In line with these objectives, a three-pronged engagement strategy is now underway and I want to spend some time outlining how this will happen. First, we have established an interdepartmental group to lead and oversee the development of the MSP. The group is chaired by my Department and is made up of senior representatives from the Marine Institute, local government and Departments whose policies and functions are relevant to the plan.
Second, I have been tasked with chairing an advisory group to facilitate participation in the MSP process by all relevant stakeholders from the economic, environmental and social pillars. The purpose of the advisory group is to harness the potential and capacity of a broad range of sectors, including representation from the public, business, environmental, social and knowledge-based sectors, to guide strategic thinking and decision-making in the preparation of marine spatial plans. We met for the first time in early March and tomorrow we will meet for the second time. The outputs of the group will also inform the work of the interdepartmental MSP group and provide updates, reports or recommendations as required.
The third strand is stakeholder engagement. This is a parallel process with a strong focus on awareness raising among coastal communities, smaller unaligned stakeholders and individual members of larger representative bodies. This strand is critically important and I hope we can get more people involved in the process. I thank the many Senators who have engaged in that process, including Senator O'Sullivan, and I encourage others to do the same when they have the opportunity to do so.
Staff from the MSP team in my Department have been engaged in a series of public engagements throughout the country over recent months and this will continue. These have ranged from conference presentations and meetings with sectoral groups such as the regional inshore fisheries forums, whose members are representative of the inshore sector, and fishermen using boats of less than 12 m in overall length, to smaller public meetings in coastal communities to help the public understand how they can feed into the plan by getting involved in the consultation processes. The latter have been advertised via local and regional groups, local newspapers, direct contact with stakeholder groups and using social media, in particular Twitter.
I ask Senators who are in daily contact with councillors and are working with others to encourage participation and ask colleagues at different levels of politics to spread the word. The local meetings are, by design, informal and low key and are taking place at the earliest possible stage before any ink has been committed to paper in a draft plan. They are intended purely to help explain the concept and processes around MSP and to give people time and space to think about how they want to shape the plan during the formal consultation and participation phases. Larger, more regionally focused events will take place in the autumn of this year and into early 2019.
I want to be very clear. We are an open book on this. There is no agenda and we do not have a plan in place. We genuinely want to hear everyone's views and thoughts. We are working with colleagues from other countries who have brought forward their own marine strategies and plans and are engaging with them on how the process worked for them, how they got people involved, and how they made their final decisions. There is a meeting this week with stakeholders from other countries who have been through this process. It is important that we recognise the work which is being carried out by staff in my Department and other Departments who have an interest in this area and are putting extra efforts into making sure we get this right. It is important that we do that.
The first opportunity for formal input will arise in the autumn following the publication of our baseline report. This document will outline the current situation in our seas, that is, the situation in terms of capturing the nature and locations of existing activities, developments and marine uses. The baseline report will also pose a series of questions to stakeholders to help frame their submissions. It will be published in September 2018 and will kick-start a two-month consultation period.
Following this, the draft MSP, including environmental assessments, is intended to be completed by quarter 2 of 2019 and will be followed by a three-month public consultation. Senators can see all the different elements of public consultation. It is a pity that Senator Ó Domhnaill has missed my contribution. Maybe people could inform him that we are going out of our way to make sure that there is consultation for everybody right throughout the process. We are very happy to come in here for a debate on this at any stage or to have a conversation in committee or in the Dáil because we want to have that conversation and involve all Members as much as possible.
In terms of the formal consultation on the draft marine plan, once the consultation period has closed, the responses will be analysed and a summary report, detailing any comments made, will be produced and published on our website. We will try to address at a detailed enough level, if possible, the issues people have raised so that they will understand that their submissions were read and taken on board, even though we might not be able to include everyone's idea.
This report will also set out any changes made to the plans as well as any changes that were not made and the reasons for that. Everyone who submitted a response will be notified when it is published. The final plan will be in place by mid-2020, just 30 months on from the launch of our roadmap document in December 2017. Once the plan is in place, it will be a key strategic spatial framework encompassing all plans and sectoral policies for the marine area. It will provide a coherent framework in which those sectoral policies and objectives can be realised. It will be the key decision-making tool for regulatory authorities and policymakers into the future in a number of ways, including decisions on individual consent applications which will have to be in line with the provisions of the plan in the same way that terrestrial plans form part of the decision-making toolkit in the on-land planning process. We will try to engage more online as we go through the planning and development Bill.
Ireland's national marine planning framework will close the loop, just as the national planning framework does for land-based sectors, by providing a key input to the development of future sectoral marine policies. It is about taking a long-term vision to areas that affect this country and looking ahead for next 20 to 25 years. I look forward to working with colleagues from all parties over the next two years of this process and it is to be hoped we can complete our work by the deadline.