Coillte to be brought before Oireachtas committee over admission it harvested some landowners’ forests and did not pay them

Forestry is one of the oldest forms of investment.
Forestry is one of the oldest forms of investment.
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Chairman of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Pat Deering TD, has expressed concern over Coillte’s admission that the state body harvested some landowners’ forests and did not pay them.

The Managing Director of Coillte, Mr Gerard Murphy, has admitted that the state-owned body had problems in relation to communications and transparency in its dealings with landowners.

Committee Chair, Pat Deering TD said today he is hugely concerned by Coillte’s admission that it has not paid landowners for the timber it has harvested from their lands.

“These landowners entered into partnerships with Coillte in good faith and in return for fair payment and in some cases, they have not been paid for years of harvesting.

“While I welcome Gerard Murphy’s statement admitting that this has been happening and that all payments are to be made in full in the next couple of months,

“I will be asking the Committee to invite Coillte to appear before us once again as a matter of urgency to explain this situation.

“The Committee engaged with Coillte in December; this issue was raised and they are keeping the Committee updated on the matter. It is also anticipated that representatives from the IFA Forestry Committee would engage with us very soon,” he said.

In a statement on the issue Coillte re-iterated its commitment to resolving issues with a number of its farm forestry partnerships.

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Coillte has stated that the vast majority of the 630 partnerships it entered with farmers between 1993 and 2012 are working well and as intended.

As a result of a review announced in December and which is ongoing, Coillte believes there are less than 10 complex issues with partnerships to be resolved.

Coillte acknowledges that some partners have been frustrated at the level of communication they have received and apologises for this.

It wants to assure its partners that it is taking active steps to address this situation. Coillte has engaged the services of KPMG to help it improve the quality and level of information provided to farmers, particularly in relation to payments and how they are calculated.

In December, Coillte wrote to all of its farm partners to inform them it had set up a dedicated help line they could call and discuss their concerns with the forestry company.

All calls have been logged and Coillte committed to respond within two weeks. Since mid-December it has received approximately 55 calls to the help line.

Of these around 25 issues were resolved and around 20 are on track to be resolved. Around 8 more complex cases have been identified which will have to be dealt with on a case by case basis through engagement with the Partner.

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