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National Parks & Wildlife Service to be restructured as part of €55m package

Ministers Darragh O'Brien and Malcolm Noonan

More staff and investment promised under government plan

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Sports & Parks

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5 May 2022 | 0

Ireland’s National Parks & Wildlife Service (NWPS) will undergo a full organisational restructuring as part of a new €55 million package.

The government published a Strategic Action Plan for the NPWS that sets out a timeline for its reorganisation. A thorough review of the organisation informed the design of the plan.

The early recruitment of 60 key staff for ‘critically important roles’ was announced. Roles include rangers, scientists, general operatives and key managerial, HR specialists.

The plan will also see an overhaul of the HR capability and practice within the service and set up an expert group to establish the human resourcing requirement of the NPWS on an international, best-practice basis.

Executive agency

It plans to establish the service as an executive agency within a government department, and change its internal structure, so that it is fit to meet current and future challenges.

It also intends to bring forward legislation to provide updated and stronger, statutory underpinnings for Ireland’s National Parks and the work of the NPWS in protecting and conserving threatened and endangered animals, plants and habitats in the state.

“This strategic action plan aims to deliver an NPWS that is more resilient, better resourced, and better equipped to play its part in Ireland’s response to the biodiversity emergency, on the national and international stage,” said Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan, who launched the package.

“The plan will equip the NPWS with the organisational capability and supporting structures to enable it to deliver its mandate in protecting our natural heritage.”

October’s budget saw Minster Noonan allocate €47 million for the NPWS, which he said was an increase of 64% since he became minister in 2020.

Biodiversity emergency

Its responsibilities are also on the increase as Minster Noonan said the renewal plan is the “keystone action in this government’s response to the biodiversity emergency.”

This plan is underpinned by a comprehensive, expert review of the organisation, which has now been completed by independent authors.

In the review of the NPWS, the authors said in its current form, “the NPWS is not aligned effectively to deliver on its current demands and future mandate”.

Staff within the NPWS are not to blame for the current predicament in the face of a biodiversity crisis, but they are hamstrung by resources.

“It was clear from listening to stakeholders that there is broad consensus that the NPWS staff work incredibly hard, and are doing an admirable job, considering the resource constraints under which they are operating,” the report said, adding that political apathy was at the heart of the problem.

The first phase of the NPWS review was led by professor of botany at Trinity College Dublin Jane Stout, and Dr Micheál Ó Cinneide, a former director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Its concluding phase was delivered by former Secretary General Gerry Kearney. It had more than 3,000 submissions and was the first time ever that such a review took place in size and scope.

The NPWS is a Division of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage with a wide variety of roles and responsibilities across the organisation. These range from policy-making functions to operational responsibilities including the management of six national parks, 78 nature reserves, and a variety of other state lands accessible to the public.

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