Deputy Stanley calls for action to end Forestry Industry crisis
Laois-Offaly TD and Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Deputy Stanley has called for urgent action to address the crisis in the forestry and timber industry.
Speaking in the Dáil chamber last evening on the Forestry (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020, Deputy Stanley said:
“There is a crisis in the forestry sector, and it needs to be urgently addressed. This is an industry in which thousands of jobs are at risk in rural areas where there is little or no alternative employment.
“There are almost 800 workers in Laois and Offaly alone who are reliant upon this industry through forestry, timber production and sawmills. Some of these workers are already on short time.
“This crisis is very real for the likes of Coolrain Sawmills, Sheerans in Mountrath and the Portlaoise Sawmill where families are very worried. Supplies of wood are reaching a critical point, to supply construction and biofuel industries. Portlaoise Sawmill has already scaled back production of wood pellets and can’t meet demand. Right now, only around 25% of what is needed in the supply chain is being approved due to the licenses backlog.
“It has got to the point where we are now importing timber into Ireland to meet demand. Alarmingly, I’ve been informed that a case of timber imported from Germany was contaminated by Bark Beetle. This is an insect that led to 32 million cubic metres of German timber having to be disposed of in 2019. We cannot allow for such an incident to occur in Ireland. We need to reduce importing timber and allow our own industry to get back to work.
“We support the substance of the governments bill but will be submitting a number of amendments aimed at dealing with the bottlenecks in granting licenses and to make the appeals system work more efficiently. We support the proposal for a modest fee to lodge appeals or submissions on the granting of licenses, but it must be capped at a reasonable amount.
“The Forestry Appeals Committee must also be adequately resourced to clear the backlog and to allow it deal with licenses a lot quicker. Legislation will be worthless if this doesn’t happen.
We also need a new forestry policy to increase the amount of broadleaf trees, to improvise biodiversity, and to promote on farm forestry.”