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To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide an update regarding the sale of Coillte's harvesting rights; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

- Mick Wallace.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 23rd May, 2013.

REPLY

On foot of the Government’s decision last year that a concession for the harvesting rights to Coillte’s forests be considered for sale, an inter-Departmental Steering Group was established, comprising representatives of my Department, the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine and NewERA, to progress the proposed transaction and advise on how it should be implemented.

The Steering Group has worked closely with Coillte to analyse the various financial, policy and technical issues that arise in the context of a sale of harvesting rights.  These covered all of the concerns that have been raised by various interest groups, including, amongst others, the issue of public access to the forests, replanting obligations to ensure the continued existence of our forests, harvesting policy, the issue of supply of timber to sawmills, as well as the implications for a post-transaction Coillte.  In this context, the Steering Group also met with representatives of the Coillte Board and management, representatives of the Coillte Group of Unions, and the Chairman and members of the Irish Timber Council.

A number of detailed financial, technical and other specialist reports were also prepared for Coillte in late 2012 by external specialist consultancy bodies, in full consultation with the Board of Coillte and its executive management, which have also been considered by the Steering Group.

The Steering Group has now reported to the Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine and myself in relation to its work to date. It is our intention to bring a memorandum to Government on this matter in the near future.

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