News 2013

Title: Oireachtas members briefed against Coillte harvesting rights sale
System Date: 26/02/2013
Oireachtas members briefed against Coillte harvesting rights sale

26 February 2013

At today's, Tuesday 26 February, Oireachtas briefing on the potential sale of Coillte's harvesting rights, Mountaineering Ireland's Chief Executive Officer, Karl Boyle summed up the unified call from the Industry (Irish Timber Council), the Employees (IMPACT) and Recreational Users, based on public opinion and economic assessments (Bacon Report & Brennan Report) that "it is now time for decision makers to make the right decision and withdraw this proposal".

Andrew Doyle, TD and chairperson of the Agriculture Committee opened the brief by outlining the role the committee has in assessing the proposal and noted the commitment by all the organisations involved in the campaign.

Peter Bacon highlighted that the proposal to sell the forest harvesting rights of the state forestry company, Coillte, would leave the State liable for costs of €1.3 billion following a sale of the rights. To cover these costs, Coillte harvesting rights would need to sell at €78 per cubic metre, which is “well above current or recent prices.”The average recent price paid for Coillte supplies to saw mills has been just over €43 per cubic metre. He added, that the economic rationale for the proposed sale of Coillte harvesting rights “no longer stands up and cannot be justified.”

Continued public access to our public forests, in the event of private acquisition of the harvesting rights, remains a huge concern for recreational groups and the wider public. Ruairí Ó Conchúr, chairperson of Mountaineering Ireland’s Access and Conservation committee, outlined the huge importance of the Coillte estate in terms of recreation. He said, "all of Ireland's mountains have Coillte property adjacent and these forests provide, generally informal, routes that enable access to the higher mountains". He noted that investment in recreation by Coillte in recent years and said it was naive for anyone to suggest that this could be continued if the harvesting rights were sold.

Pat Glennon of the Irish Timber Council (ITC), the representative body for Ireland's sawmills, addressed the issue from the perspective of the timber industry. Mr Glennon said that the proposed sale of Coillte’s harvesting rights could lead to the closure of all ten of Ireland’s sawmills with the loss of 2,500 jobs. The ITC published a new report today (Tuesday 26th), prepared by EPS Consulting, which finds that it makes no sense for the Government to proceed with the sale from a either a commercial, economic or financial point of view.

Peter Bacon’s report, Assessment of the Consequences of the Proposed Sale of Coillte’s Timber Harvesting Rights, published in January, outlines the potential to disrupt the Irish timber processing sector, due to lack of certainty over future supply. It says job losses, which could arise in the processing industry if timber were exported without processing in Ireland, would add to future costs to the State.

Matt Staunton, IMPACT national secretary, commented that the proposed sale was bad for three reasons, “The proposal to sell our forest harvesting rights for the next fifty to eighty years is bad for the workers in Coillte, whose jobs we need to protect. It’s also a bad deal for the government, who will manage to recover three weeks worth of interest on our debt repayments in return for the sale. This would be like grains of sand in a desert of debt.

“The proposal is also very bad for jobs in the wider forestry industries and local economies that benefit from both tourism and employment in the timber industry” he said.

The brief's sponsoring member, Eamon O Cuiv TD welcomed Andrew Doyle's comments and urged for a full and thorough debate through the Agriculture Committee.

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