Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has called for the Joint Oireachtas Agriculture Committee to be recalled immediately in order to address the slump in processing forestry licences.
The representative for the Roscommon-Galway constituency has submitted the request to the chair of the committee, Jackie Cahill, as well as the clerk of the committee, following receipt of the latest figures from the Forestry Dashboard.
Commenting on the matter, Fitzmaurice said: “Just 33 licences were granted in the week ending Friday, August 27th. A total of 20 of these were classed as felling, with 14 for Coillte and six for private felling. Just three road licences were granted and 10 afforestation licences were processed.
“In the previous seven weeks to the latest set of figures, just 18 afforestation licences were issued.
“You have to go back as far as the week ending July 2nd to see a level of licence processing which you could consider acceptable, when 115 licences were processed.
“Since that, productivity within the Forest Service has fallen off a cliff. In the last eight weeks, approximately 34 licences per week have been given the green light”.
Deputy Fitzmaurice added: “The Minister of State with responsibility for Forestry, Pippa Hackett, previously told the committee that the drop in productivity was a minor set back and it would soon be back to normal service”.
“During previous committee meetings around forestry, we were also told that the Forest Service would have to maintain a processing average of approximately 100 licences a week to meet its overall target for the year.
“This huge fall off in productivity has gone on for long enough and I am calling on the chair of the Agriculture Committee, Jackie Cahill, to reconvene an urgent meeting of the committee so we can address these issues”.
Deputy Fitzmaurice called on the secretary general of the Department to appear before the committee and address the “abysmal licencing figures” which he says are crippling the entire sector.
“We have been patiently waiting for promised improvements in licence processing from the Forest Service, which has not been sufficiently apparent. People need to be held accountable for this lack of productivity.
“I hope Deputy Cahill, who has been a fair and thorough chair of the Agriculture Committee, agrees with the urgent need with which the committee needs to reconvened,” he concluded.