Just as the Dáil rose for its summer recess, Minister of State for Agriculture Pippa Hackett announced a very short consultation over the traditional August holiday period on the outline of the Draft Agriculture Appeals (Amendment) Bill 2020.
This Bill proposes significant changes and limitations to the appeal system for Forestry Licences. Your chance to have your say on it closes at 5pm this Friday (28th August).
The Bill limits the right to appeal forestry licences, further compromising an already deeply flawed system. While forestry might not concern you now, there’s a good chance that this approach will be replicated by the Government. Appeals could be limited for other areas, like planning, aquaculture and offshore exploration.
The Bill has been subject to sharp criticism, particularly from impacted communities and environmental NGOs, who see the forestry appeal system as an essential safety mechanism to try and prevent poor quality and legally flawed decisions. However, the Minister and industry argue that appeals cause delays. But rather than addressing the underlying issues which necessitate people appealing decisions, the Bill is instead proposing to restrict the right and ability to appeal.
Specifically, the Bill proposes to:
- Limit which individuals, groups and bodies are entitled to appeal.
- Give the Minister powers to:
- Introduce fees for making an appeal on forestry licences;
- Specify a whole range of additional criteria to qualify as an environmental group, creating more obstacles to the right of appeal for small local groups and environmental NGOs.
- Enable the Minister to issue directions to the Forestry Appeals Committee, raising issues about its independence. It also changes how it operates, and reduces oversight by its chair.
But there is still time to ask the Minister to change her mind and take a different approach to forestry. Send in your own submission to the public consultation on the Bill by 5pm this Friday (28 August) to ForestryBill2020@agriculture.gov.ie and copy in your local TDs and concillors with the subject line “Draft Agriculture Appeals (Amendment) Bill 2020 – Public Consultation”.
Call for the Minister to:
- Abandon the proposed Bill which limits appeals and impacts on the independence of the Forestry Appeals Committee.
- Prioritise a focus on improving the quality of licencing decisions by addressing longstanding issues within the system and by correcting issues in forestry legislation.
- Put the creation of a new forestry programme front and centre and ensure that it recognises community and environmental concerns.
- Reform the forestry grants system so that it incentivises delivery of a new positive forestry model.
- Reject the Mackinnon report. It is the basis for the Bill’s proposal to introduce fees for forestry appeals. It also contains other deeply problematic recommendations which will impact on our most sensitive sites for nature.
We need to change how we do forestry, and we know how to get there. But we need your help to change the focus. Make sure your submission gets in on time this Friday at 5pm and let’s call for a focus on meaningful and proper reform of the broken forestry system together.