IFA President Tim Cullinan said that IFA will hold Minister Hackett to account on her statement that farmers will start to see delivery from Project Woodland within twelve weeks.
“We will give the Project Board and the Working Groups this time to start to deliver on the recommendations in the plan, but to use the Minister’s own words, farmers will be pressing pause on forestry if they don’t see significant improvements during this time,” he said.
Over 220 farmers attended a recent IFA meeting to hear from Minister Pippa Hackett and Jo O’Hara, the author of the newly-launched Project Woodland, to learn more on the Minister’s plan to improve the delivery of forestry licences.
Tim Cullinan acknowledged that the Minister had put together a strong team on the Project Board, but said it was clear that farmers were very concerned that a full-time independent Project Manager had not been appointed to oversee the implementation of the plan.
“It was evident from the meeting that farmers have lost faith in the Department’s ability to resolve the forest licence crisis. Given the importance of the plan to the future of forestry, I am calling on the Minister to reconsider her decision and appoint a full-time independent Project Manager.”
He said that this would go some way to convince farmers that the Minister is listening and to start the process of restoring farmer confidence in forestry.
IFA Farm Forestry Chairman Vincent Nally said that farmers are hugely frustrated with the licence process, particularly with the communication vacuum, and the lack of transparency as to where their licence is in the system.
“Farmers want immediate action to free up more licences and allow them to manage their forests,” said Mr. Nally.
He said that the recommendation to pilot an environmental report grant should be acted on immediately and should be piloted on the 1,100 private felling licences that are caught up in ecology.
“This would go a long way to ease some of the frustration among farmers. It would provide some much-needed support and free up resources within the Department to support the implementation of the plan,” he said.