INHFA calls for support in budget to recognise cost of designations.

The INHFA have through their budget submission called on Minister for Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan to once and for all acknowledge the cost her Department has placed on farmers through the designation process. INHFA spokesperson Brendan Joyce stated how the “designating of the SAC and SPA areas has enforced real costs on farmers with these lands that has never being acknowledged by the Department.”

Currently almost 14% of the country has been designated as either a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) or a Special Protected Area (SPA) in a process that started in 2002. This designation process which is only now going through its final ratification has stated Joyce “been arduous and never sought farmer buy-in which is why it has been a failure to date. This process should at its commencement have sought farmer buy-in through proper engagement from the Department outlining how or why their land is so valuable, why it was designated and how any farm plan would work.”

Unfortunately many farmers have learnt the hard way that the designation process is costing them money. These costs continued Joyce “are incurred through a variety of unforeseen actions and requirements such as, additional planning costs if they wanted to put up a new fence, or their inability to secure bank loans on designated lands resulting from the significant devaluation of their property. Farmers have also seen how every morning before they start the day they need to consider if their activity for that day will require permission from the NPWS. Fencing has already been referred to as one action requiring consent but there are 38 others such as reopening a drain, spreading of lime, fertiliser or farm yard manure, topping, mulching or the use of a digger. All of these are measures, which farmers may have to consult with the NPWS Ranger or in some cases apply for planning which at best slows down and undermines their day to day activity and ultimately their profitability.”

Joyce concluded by outlining how the INHFA has been involved in talks with the NPWS for the last two years in reviewing an agreement that has not worked. Through this the Minister has been asked to engage in the process and so far has declined. It is now time he stated “for the Minister to fully engage and ensure that a meaningful payment is put in place in the upcoming budget that acknowledges the costs placed on all designated farmers by the state.”