Government programme can drive sector forward
IN THE recently announced programme for Government, the following should be noted:
- State forestry policy will be reviewed to take account of its critical role in relation to climate change and its importance to construction, bio-energy, bio-diversity and its potential to deliver long-term employment in other downstream industries, such as eco-tourism, furniture and crafts.
- The review will include the role of Coillte and its functions and operations. It will also assess the effectiveness of current forestry grant schemes and make recommendations on how best to deliver future support.
- It is intended to overhaul and enhance the range of programmes and supports in order to facilitate the attainment of the target of 17pc forestry cover by 2030 and contribute to meeting our climate-change commitments.
- The level of new forest planting will be increased to 10,000 ha/year. Towards that aim, this year's level will be increased through the use of direct funding and appropriate tax incentives.
- The Government will also work with the Irish forestry sector, including Coillte, to develop a scheme through which some of the money currently set aside to buy carbon credits abroad will be diverted for forestry investment in Ireland.
It is worth noting that all of the above contains a firm commitment to support forestry and, while reviews are of no immediate help, they are important and may lead to useful changes. Given the optimistic tone of the programme's content it would seem that any changes made to forestry support will be positive. The target of 10,000ha is clearly for the longer-term but, hopefully, it will begin to be met during next year's planting season. It is also good to see that the target of 17pc forest cover by 2030 is still being aimed for. This statement, provided that it is followed through, should underpin future investment and allow for forward planning by nurseries and contractors, and giving confidence to farmers to plant.