7 March 2021
By Tom Collins
Minister of State launches public consultation as part of the National Parks and Wildlife Service Review, publishes Terms of Reference
The Programme for Government – Our Shared Future, sets out a commitment to, “review the remit, status and funding of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), to ensure that it is playing an effective role in delivering its overall mandate and enforcement role in the protection of wildlife”.
Last month, the Chairpersons were appointed and the commencement of the Review was announced. Now, Minister of State Malcolm Noonan T.D. has launched the public consultation, the first element of which is an online survey. All stakeholders will then be given the opportunity to make written submissions and key stakeholders will be invited to participate in online interviews.
The Terms of Reference have also been finalised and are now available to view on the website of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Welcoming the progress, Minister Noonan said:
“Last month, my Department announced the start of the Review of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, a key commitment in the Programme for Government – Our Shared Future. Today, we’re launching the public consultation process and publishing the Terms of Reference. I want to encourage everyone with an interest in the future of the NPWS to get involved. The first part is an online survey – it takes about 10 minutes. Our independent team will follow this up by inviting written submissions and engaging in interviews with key stakeholders. But for now, please follow the link to the survey and have your say.”
The Terms of Reference were developed in consultation with the Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform (Minister Malcolm Noonan T.D.), the Independent Chair of the Review, Professor Jane Stout and Deputy Chair, Dr Mícheál Ó Cinnéide and will inform the future development of the NPWS to enable it to support Ireland’s biodiversity objectives in alignment with the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy and the forthcoming post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
The overall mandate of the National Parks and Wildlife Service can be précised as being to preserve, protect and present our Natural Heritage and the forthcoming review will cover all aspects of this mandate. The review of NPWS thus will be cognisant of its full role in terms of not only nature conservation, biodiversity and enforcement of wildlife legislation but also in terms of development, management and presentation of our National Parks, Nature Reserves and restored peatlands, including their amenity use and importance to local communities, regional economic development, sustainable tourism and employment.
Preparatory work is already underway on the review which will comprise three distinct strands that will be undertaken concurrently.
- Strand one will be focused upon stakeholder engagement (both internal and external).
- The second strand will be focused upon reviewing NPWS’ capacity and resourcing.
- The third strand will consist of a comparative desktop analysis of resources/structures of similar organisations in other jurisdictions and an overview of the role and responsibilities of other state bodies and their relationship with NPWS.
The three strands will operate in parallel, with their findings informing the final report that will be prepared by the Independent Chair.
Commenting on the publication of the Terms of Reference, Minister Noonan said:
“The protection, conservation and restoration of our biodiversity is of paramount importance and this review is key to ensuring that the NPWS is properly resourced, staffed and equipped to lead Ireland’s response to the biodiversity emergency. More than ever before, there is a public demand for healthy nature – in our towns and cities, in our forests, bogs and agricultural landscapes, rivers, lakes and coastal waters. Ensuring a fit-for-purpose NPWS is one of the actions that will help us meet that demand and all reap the benefits of biodiversity action for rural economies, tourism, public health and wellbeing, and for nature itself. I want the NPWS to deliver upon all aspects of its mandate, including the conservation, tourism and amenity values of our National Parks and Nature Reserves, as well as to drive the protection and restoration of Ireland’s habitats and species.”
The Minister continued:
“The pandemic has revealed the value and importance of public access to wild places in a new way. For many of us, myself included, spending time in nature has supported our physical and mental health – whether through rediscovering local heritage on walks within our 5kms, taking up new wildlife-spotting hobbies, or simply enjoying the fresh air and peace of the great outdoors. I’m pleased therefore that this review will be holistic in nature and will take account of NPWS’s full role, in terms of nature conservation, enforcement of wildlife legislation and managing and enhancing our natural heritage sites as visitor and tourist destinations based on sustainable tourism, outdoor recreation, trail networks, and direct experiences with nature, all the while conserving their natural, built and cultural heritage.”
He concluded by saying he looked forward to the receipt of the final report from the independent Chair this summer.