The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD has announced the Government decision in relation to the proposed sale of Coillte Harvesting Rights. The Minister advised that “at its meeting today, the Government decided that now is not the appropriate time to proceed with the sale of harvesting rights in Coillte and that the current focus must be on the restructuring of Coillte, overseen by NewERA and the relevant stakeholder Departments“. It was also decided that a robust analysis be carried out to evaluate how to give effect to a beneficial merger of Coillte with Bord na Mona to create a streamlined and refocused commercial state company operating in the bio-energy and forestry sectors, as committed to in the Programme for Government.
Minister Coveney stated that “the Government decided that the annual delivery of a material financial dividend to the State be prioritised as part of the restructuring of Coillte”. It further decided that it will consider all the options to maximise value from Coillte when the restructuring is complete in 18 months time. In making this decision to progress with a restructuring of Coillte, the Government also noted that the remainder of the state asset disposal program is unaffected by this decision on Coillte and is proceeding according to Government timetables.
Welcoming the Cabinet decision, the Minister stated that “it was made on the basis of a thorough analysis undertaken by NewERA, Coillte, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and my Department.” He added that, as part of the process, a number of detailed financial, technical and other specialist reports were prepared in relation to Coillte, by external specialist consultancy bodies, in full consultation with the Board of Coillte and its executive management. Minister Coveney also commented that “this analysis was quite extensive as it not only involved financial calculations associated with the sale process but also the possible impact on the timber industry, public access to recreational land, environmental and social impacts and consequential implications for the company. As I have said, on numerous occasions, the Government will continue to proceed carefully with the finalisation of any decision on this matter as we are determined to realise commercial potential but also to protect the public value that Coillte offers by maintaining public access to its forests and supporting the broader timber industry“.