Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Ceisteanna (69)

Richard Boyd Barrett


69. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to expand the national afforestation programme. [49106/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department is fully committed to supporting the expansion of the national forest estate and will continue to fund new plantng through generous grant and premiums under the forestry programme, which has a very substantial allocation of €103m for 2020. This reflects our commitment towards working to the planting target of 8,000 hectares contained in the Climate Action Plan. I am more than aware that this level of planting will be challenging and that it will require shared action from the private sector, public bodies and the community at large, including business.

We are doing all that we can to expedite planning appeals. A report which we commissioned from an external consultant, reviewing our approval process, is due this week and will, I expect, contain recommendations which will make the system more efficient and effective. We will also be looking at other issues which affect landowner participation in the scheme and are currently reviewing the COFORD Forestry Land Availability Implementation Report in this regard.

It is likely that planting private land alone will not be sufficient to deliver 8,000 hectares, which is why Coillte's proposed planting of 1,500 hectares of former Bord na Mona land over the next three years is very welcome. I am hopeful that other public bodies will follow suit and will be looking for support from my colleagues in government, local authorities and others to help us achieve our national target.

Businesses too can play their part. A new woodland Environmental Fund provides an opportunity for businesses to contribute to the planting of native woodland. I am pleased to say that An Post has already partnered with us under the Fund and other businesses are about to do so.

We are also funding forestry promotional initiatives in the amount of nearly €1 millon and Teagasc is also actively promoting forestry through a substantial programme of education and forestry events.

I am confident that this suite of actions will lead to the desired increase in planting levels necessary to meet our target.