Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien and Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan have published a Strategic Action Plan for the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) following government approval.
The new plan sets out an ambitious timeline for a full organisational restructuring of the NPWS, and a substantial €55million additional investment in the organisation across three budgetary cycles, together with the early recruitment of 60 key staff for critically important roles. Launching the Strategic Action Plan in Ballykeeffe Nature Reserve in Co. Kilkenny, Minister Noonan said:
“The renewal of the National Parks and Wildlife Service is the keystone action in this government’s response to the biodiversity emergency and today, I’m announcing a suite of strategic actions to transform the organisation, which have now been approved at Cabinet.
“I’m delighted to confirm that the NPWS will be established as an Executive Agency, giving it a strong identity and voice to speak for nature. Its internal structures will be overhauled, delivering a stronger focus on external engagement and delivery of outcomes. New Directorates, organised along functional lines, will benefit from the early recruitment of 60 key staff for critically important roles.
“I’ve already increased NPWS funding to €47million in 2022 – a total increase of 64% since I became Minister – bringing it back up to a level not seen since before the financial crisis. Today, I’m proud to announce that Government has endorsed future underpinning investment of up to €55million over the coming three budgetary cycles to realise this plan.
"This funding commitment will enable the NPWS to embrace Ireland’s ambitions for nature and help us begin to turn the tide on biodiversity loss.”
Launching the plan, Minister Darragh O’Brien said: “The NPWS has a proud history, and despite being a relatively small organisation of some four hundred people, carries a complex range of responsibilities, ranging from significant policy and advisory functions, to operational responsibilities in our National Parks, conservation, enforcement, licensing, biodiversity protection and as a statutory consultee on planning.
"It is vital that we have a resilient and effective NPWS to perform all of those functions. I am very pleased that we now have government approval for this Strategic Action Plan, which will provide the momentum to build on the very significant gains which, working with the Minister of State, I have been able to secure for the organisation in the past two budgets, bringing its funding, for the first time since the financial crisis, back to pre-2008 levels. I am happy too for the dedicated and expert team who have sustained the NPWS through so many years - with the implementation of this Strategic Action Plan, the future of the NPWS looks bright.”
Minister Noonan added: “I would like to thank the more than three thousand people who contributed to this vitally important review process - members of the public, stakeholders, and NPWS staff themselves. I would especially like to commend the independent authors whose work the Action Plan is designed to implement - Professor Jane Stout of Trinity College Dublin and Dr Micheal Ó Cinnéide, who delivered first phase of the Review, and former Secretary General Gerry Kearney, who completed the concluding phases. Our Strategic Action Plan is the considered outcome of their deliberations and of all your input.”
Minister Noonan recently launched our National Biodiversity Conference and will be amongst the ministerial speakers in attendance at the event, which takes place in Dublin Castle on June 8&9, as well as online, tickets available now.
You can read more on how Strategic Action Plan is designed to implement and deliver upon specific recommendations made by the NPWS Review at the following link: https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/04792-ministers-announce-ambitious-new-strategic-action-plan-for-the-national-parks-and-wildlife-service/