I propose to take Questions Nos. 1989 and 1992 together.
The Department has invested heavily in both ecologist and forestry Inspector resources over the last 18 months in order to meet the needs of the licencing system. We now have 21 full time equivalent ecologists where previously we had one just 18 months ago. This has resulted in a significant improvement in the licencing output with, for example, almost three million m3 of felling licences issuing from last October to January. Similarly, roads licences have improved considerably compared to the same months last year and 50% of the target for 2021 has already been licenced by mid-March.
We acknowledge that the progress that has been made needs to be improved and sustained. Consequently, we are implementing internal changes to improve output including training, increased assistance to ecologists in the preparation of files, improved IT resources for ecologists and other system improvements. In addition, we are engagement intensively with the sector who also have a role to play by is focusing on improvement in the quality and consistency of applications and subsequent information including NISs.
Through Project Woodland, there is now a dedicated working group around the Backlog and establishing KPIs and a separate working group is charged with examining our internal processes that includes an end-to-end review of systems to ensure that they are made more efficient and are environmentally robust. We are recruiting project management and systems analyst expertise to assist in this process.
Overall, we have set ourselves a target of issuing 4,500 new licences this year which would be a 75% increase on last year, This is a massive undertaking but I believe it is possible to achieve with the collaboration of all.