If you go down to the woods today …

Crone Woods

… you’re in for a big surprise. Four years after Bord Snip first suggested privatising Coillte. Three years after Brian Lenihand and Brian Cowen agreed with the Troika that we should sell off state assets to clear the debt. Two years after the current government started trying to put a price on what the harvesting rights of the trees should be sold for. Two weeks after Simon Coveney promised that the cabinet was going to make a decision within two weeks  … the whole idea is going to be quietly shelved.

Simon Coveney was previously reported as being scheduled to bring the matter to cabinet for debate and a decision yesterday. That didn’t happen, and I understand while it has officially been long fingered for several more weeks, some in government are suggesting that this will be the first step in just quietly shelving the proposal.

One government source said to me that Pat Rabbitte would not have told the Dail that the  prospect of a sale was looking more and more unlikely every day if he didn’t seriously believe that was the case. What has to be agreed now I understand is how this would be presented to the Troika – who will need to be convinced that there is a sound financial reason for the government reneging on something previously agreed, and that the are not just caving in to pressure.

The increasingly vigorous campaign to keep our 10 national parks and 150 woodland amenity locations open to the public will claim a victory. That issue was always something of a red herring though. It is virtually impossible to extinguish rights of way and owners/managers of private forestry already let the public roam freely.

This was about what the sale would yield. And as I reported on Drivetime here, the numbers just didn’t add up and the level of investor interest may have been hugely overestimated.

IMPACT on behalf of its 600 members employed by Coillte commissioned Peter Bacon & Associates to study the financial dividend from a sell off. Though their conclusions naturally enough emphasise the downside but rather starkly highlight that the revenue generated would be equivalent to three weeks of interest payments on our national debt. Shrewd campaigning, but it would appear that many in government had already arrived at a similar conclusion.

3 Comments

Filed under Drivetime, Economics, Environment, Politics

3 responses to “If you go down to the woods today …

  1. The best news I’ve heard in a while. We need to increase the growth (excuse the pun) and yield of our woodlands for Irish use.
    Now that the use of turf for heating is almost at an end, and carbon tax on other fossil fuels is in place, we can produce a substantial industry for properly managed woodlands for the benefit of all in this country.

  2. Pingback: If you go down to the woods today … | patmcmmc

  3. Philip,

    Thanks for the article and hope this forest sale issue will be shelved!

    The whole proposed sale of the state’s harvest rights seemed illogical and appeared to be focused solely on a quick cash sale mentality that failed to take on board all the ecological, social amenity values and local industry enterprises that our state forests provide.

    Also, just to let you know, my small forest is on the relatively new Govt supported COFORD (forest research) database; its one of 300 conifer plantations across Ireland that is being actively transformed to continuous cover, non clearfell forest management and a great number on this database are Coillte sites. If the Govt sold our conifer plantations we would be undoing valuable research and wasting public money that is trying to steer our national forests towards new long term, permanent forest management, that will provide better value timbers, improve biodiversity, forest resilience in the face of climate change, improve social amenity aspects and develop further rural jobs. Just imagine the loss too, if our forest estate was sold piecemeal and how difficult it would be to maintain ecological standards too.

    If you are interested I blog about my forest transformation and its helped me inform national Green forest policy that we must, as in other leading forest nations in Europe, move toward permanent, non clearfell forestry.

    Thanks Philip

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