Thursday, 20 June 2013

Questions (24)

Joe Higgins

Question:

24. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he or his Department have examined the report on the sale of Coillte's harvesting rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29691/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

On foot of the Government’s decision last June that a concession for the harvesting rights to Coillte forests be considered for sale, a number of detailed financial, technical and other specialist reports were prepared for Coillte by external specialist consultancy bodies, in full consultation with the Board of Coillte and its executive management. The Inter-Departmental Steering Group established to oversee the Coillte transaction process, which consists of representatives of NewERA, my department and the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine, has considered these reports and appraised myself and the Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine of the work completed to-date.

The outcome of this work was also considered by the Government at its meeting on June 19th, and I can now inform the House that the Government has agreed with the joint recommendation of myself and the Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine that now is not the appropriate time to proceed with the sale of harvesting rights in Coillte, but instead the focus needs to be on the restructuring of Coillte as a company, to address the issues that were identified in the reviews undertaken. To that end, I wish to further inform the House that:

- Coillte is to undergo a fundamental restructuring, to be overseen by NewERA and the relevant stakeholder Departments, which will include operational streamlining, financial de-leveraging and a critical examination of the disposal options for its non-core activities such as telecoms and wind.

- A robust analysis will also be carried out to evaluate how to give effect to a beneficial merger of Coillte with Bord na Mona to create a streamlined and refocused commercial state company operating in the bio-energy and forestry sectors, as committed to in the Programme for Government.

- A priority in this regard will be the annual delivery of a material financial dividend to the State by Coillte.

- And finally, we intend to fill the significant number of vacancies that will arise on the Coillte board this year by persons with relevant experience and commercial expertise to drive the restructuring process and the merger with Bord na Mona if this is approved by Government.