Mick Wallace So #Biden will start as #Trump left off - continuing to impose 'collective punishment' on the people of #Venezuelahttps://t.co/9gtWc2M5Yw
Mick Wallace #EU wants to talk about Western backed protesters in #HongKong where - unlike #US - police have killed no protester… https://t.co/0NaZRH0LxN
Mick Wallace RT @wallacemick: Very significant amendment for us to win - by just 2 votes - Tax Havens are largely responsible for helping to enshrine po…
Mick Wallace RT @wallacemick: #EU - Latin America gig talked about reducing inequality + overcoming #COVID19. During a pandemic one would expect all cou…

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will consider increasing the number of staff in order to facilitate appropriate assessment for oyster farm licensing; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Mick Wallace.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 12th December, 2013.

REPLY

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine: (Simon Coveney)

The majority of areas for which oyster licences are sought are designated Special Areas of Conservation and/or Special Protection Areas under the EU Birds Directive (Natura 2000 sites).

To ensure compliance with the Birds and Habitats Directives, all applications in ‘Natura 2000 areas’ are required to be appropriately assessed. This has required the putting in place of a significant work programme which has considerable time and resource implications. An additional factor is that all aquaculture applications now undergo Environmental Impact pre-screening assessment which requires significant input from my Department’s scientific and technical advisors. My Department, in conjunction with the Marine Institute and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, is engaged in a comprehensive programme to gather the necessary baseline data appropriate to the conservation objectives of ‘Natura 2000’ areas.  This data collection programme is substantially complete.  Analysis of the data, together with the setting of appropriate conservation objectives by the NPWS, will enable all new, renewal and review applications to be appropriately assessed for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.

It is expected that successful completion of the Appropriate Assessment process will facilitate a significant increase in the number of licence determinations.  In the region of 45 aquaculture licences have issued this year in respect of Castlemaine.  A number of licensing determinations in respect of Roaringwater Bay have been made and others are imminent at this time.

The Appropriate Assessment process represents a significant financial, administrative and scientific investment by the State in resolving this issue.  My Department continues to make every effort to expedite the determination of all aquaculture applications having regard to the complexities of each case and the need to comply fully with all national and EU legislation. I am also satisfied that the resources available to my Department are sufficient to achieve this outcome.

To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will publish the findings of the review conducted into Coillte initiated in 2010; his plans for the future of the organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Mick Wallace.

 

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 12th December, 2013

REPLY

 

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine: (Simon Coveney)

Coillte has been the subject of a number of reviews over the last number of years. The review of Coillte, to which the Deputy refers, is one which was undertaken on foot of a commitment in the previous Government’s Renewed Programme for Government.  It is not my intention to publish the outcome of that review, as that particular review exercise was superseded by the analysis undertaken on foot of the Government Decisions in 2012 in relation to the sale of state assets which encompassed Coillte.

This analysis, undertaken by NewERA, Coillte, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and my Department, in relation to a proposed sale of Coillte harvesting rights was quite extensive and formed the basis for the Government’s Decision in June of this year that it was not the appropriate time to proceed with the sale of harvesting rights and that the current focus must be on the restructuring of Coillte, overseen by NewERA and the relevant stakeholder Departments. I would like to stress that this particular analysis not only involved financial calculations associated with the sale process but also the possible impact on the timber industry, public access to recreational land, environmental and social impacts and consequential implications for the company.

My plans for the future of Coillte will be informed by the progress on the restructuring of the company.  As I mentioned, a restructuring of Coillte is currently being undertaken on foot of the Government Decision in June and the Government will consider all the options to maximise value from Coillte when the restructuring is complete at the end of next year.   Another factor to inform my plans for the company will be the outcome of the current analysis evaluating how to give effect to a beneficial merger of Coillte with Bord na Móna 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.

As part of that exercise, NewERA is currently undertaking a financial evaluation on behalf of the relevant Government Departments, namely my Department, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.  This financial evaluation is being finalised after which the Departments will consider its findings.  It is intended that a recommendation will be brought to Government on the matter shortly thereafter.

I am cognisant of the important role Coillte plays within the forestry sector.  Coillte, as the State forestry company, manages an estate of over 440,000 hectares, the bulk of which is under forestry.  It is currently the main supplier of sawlog to the timber processing sector.  Coillte Management, at its recent meeting with the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, gave a comprehensive overview of its activities, its performance in 2012 and its outlook for this year.

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