Coillte’s €2bn strategy proposes 22% increase in forestry

State agency targets climate goals and tourism while boosting supplies for residential construction

A €2 billion Coillte plan to boost forestry, tourism and jobs hinges on an end to licensing delays and a national land-use policy, the company's directors say.

State forestry business Coillte has pledged to add an further 100,000 hectares of woodland to the 440,000 it already manages by 2050 in a strategy mapping the company’s future development.

Coillte estimates the proposals will cost €2 billion, but will create 1,200 jobs while boosting timber production and tourism and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Imelda Hurley, Coillte chief executive, acknowledged that the plan partly hinged on the Department of Agriculture tackling delays in issuing licences needed to cut or plant trees and build roads to transport timber. Industry bodies have been at loggerheads with the department for two years over the problem.


Ms Hurley confirmed that Coillte had submitted proposals, including changes to legislation and the department’s own processes, that should streamline the system.

She added that department officials had stepped up their efforts to deal with the problem over the last year.

Land use strategy

Chairwoman Bernie Gray stressed the plan's targets would also depend on the Government developing a national land use strategy.

Ms Hurley calculated that planting 100,000 hectares of new forest would cost €1.7 billion, accounting for most of the €2 billion total bill.

She said €500 million in Government grants for planting new forest would cover part of this cost, while Coillte itself and the private sector would contribute the balance.

Ms Gray added that Coillte needed to remain "financially sustainable" to meet the commitments involved.

Coillte will spend €100 million on tourism and recreation, doubling the number of recreation areas in its forests to 500, and developing new tourist attractions.

The business uses its forests mainly to produce timber for the home and export markets. Coillte said would it produce 25 million cubic metres of Irish-certified timber to aid the Republic in building 300,000 new homes by 2030.

Ms Hurley explained that the 1,200 new posts created would be in tree nurseries, estate management and tourism. “These really are direct jobs,” she said. “A portion of them will be Coillte and a portion will be contractors.”

She pointed out that Coillte has always hired a mix of directly employed and contract staff.


Coillte will increase the area of its forest that is managed primarily for nature by 44,000 hectares to 30 per cent by 2025, from one fifth currently. It plans to “redesign” a further 70,000 hectares to create semi-natural woodlands to provide habitats for wildlife.

Mark Carlin, chief executive of Coillte Forests, predicted around half the company's land could be managed primarily for nature by the end of the century. These plans will cost around €200 million.

Coillte has already announced that it would join forces with fellow state company, the ESB, to generate enough renewable electricity to power around 500,000 homes.

According to the firm, the extra 100,000 hectares of forest it plans will soak up 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Coillte will begin seeking the views of the public and interested parties on its new strategy from the middle of next month. Ms Hurley argued that the company had a critical role to play in the State’s efforts to meet tough climate targets.

She added the plan would grow new forests, manage existing timber, capture more carbon dioxide, increase wood production and create extra recreational space.

Ms Gray said this was an important day for Coillte. She explained that the company had been exploring ways in which it could play an increased role in the Republic’s climate agenda, while recognising the need for financial sustainability.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas