Cork North West TD, Michael Creed has called for balance in the way state agencies engaged in the forestry sector engage with each other and stakeholders in the industry. Speaking during a Dáil debate on the future of the forestry sector in Ireland, Deputy Creed made a broad ranging speech which made particular reference to issues being faced in Cork North West;
Commenting on problems being faced with potential growers in the Mullaghareirks Deputy Creed said; “there is an inter-agency impasse involving the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service with regard to the hen harrier. If one mentions the hen harrier in some parts of my constituency, certain individuals become very angry. There is a need to remove the artificial impediments that exist in order that people might get on with the job. I am not in favour of any diminution of our obligations in respect of biodiversity, etc., but a balance must be struck. I am of the view that such a balance does not exist at present”.
Addressing the broader issue of the future of Coillte Deputy Creed continued; “I refer to the issues of legitimate concern, one of which is that any future arrangement would not impede the annual flow of timber to sawmills because this would be a significant concern as it relates to the downstream employment opportunities. The Minister has clearly indicated that there is no point in the State getting a ball of cash with the consequences being that the cash would be absorbed in dealing with job losses and unemployment payments. It must make sense under all the other headings. These are not all economic issues because there are also social, recreational, environmental issues and issues of access, which are important also”.
“The Coillte public park in Gougane Barra in my constituency is widely recognised as one of the great recreational forestry areas. Many of these forestry estates do not have a commercial crop and buyers will not be interested in bidding for them. The quality of the wood is not as good. Some will say that a minority of Coillte’s forestry holdings have timber of significant commercial value. The proposal must be evaluated against a whole series of objective criteria such as the replanting obligation which is critical; the flow of timber to sawmills; the recreational open access issues”.
“We need to make haste slowly with regard to afforestation. Serious deliberation about the process is being undertaken. All the stakeholders will be consulted, including employees. I bring to the attention of the Minister a small cohort of former Coillte employees who have been disgracefully short-changed by the company’s pension policy. I am aware of someone who spent more than 30 years working with Coillte, who has a pension of less than one euro for every year he worked. That issue needs to be addressed because it is a festering sore on Coillte’s corporate image. Coillte had very highly paid executives and also people who gave blood, sweat and tears to build the company to what it is today but who are in receipt of disgracefully small pensions. That needs to be investigated and those issues need to be addressed in advance of a sale”.