Plan will see an additional €55 million invested in renewing the NPWS and the early recruitment of 60 key staff
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien TD and Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan TD have published a Strategic Action Plan for the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) following Government approval. The Plan sets out an ambitious timeline for a full organisational restructuring of the NPWS, and a substantial €55m 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 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 €47m 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 €55m 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.”
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. 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.
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.”
Today’s announcement fulfils an important commitment in the Programme for Government, providing for a significant investment in, and a renewal of, the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This renewal is underpinned by a comprehensive, expert review of the organisation, which has now been completed by independent authors. The Strategic Action Plan is designed to implement and deliver upon the recommendations made by the review, which are as follows:
- Establish the NPWS as an executive agency within a Government department.
2. Change the NPWS internal structure, so that it is fit to meet current and future challenges.
3. Reconfigure the top management team within the restructured NPWS.
4. Establish permanent standing committees, on a cross-functional basis across the new directorates, to address longstanding, multifaceted, complex matters.
- Fundamentally overhaul and improve HR capability and practice within NPWS.
6. Set up an expert group, drawing on international expertise in organisations with a similar remit to the NPWS, to establish the human resourcing requirement of the NPWS on an international, best-practice basis.
- Bring forward legislation to provide updated and stronger, statutory underpinnings for our National Parks and the work of the NPWS in protecting and conserving threatened and endangered animals, plants and habitats in the State.
Communications and ICT
- Overhaul and fundamentally transform the way NPWS communicates, both internally and externally.
9. Put in place a new, renewed and improved programme of Engagement, Awareness and Education by NPWS.
10. Transform ICT. The CIO Office in the Department of Housing Local Government and Heritage has brought forward a four staged process and pathway to transform ICT within NPWS and over the next three years.
- Consider a wider examination of the remits of the broader constellation of State actors with significant responsibilities in relation to Biodiversity and Climate action.
12. NPWS should engage with other public bodies operating alongside it in the wider sector, to help ensure that each is playing its own part, according to its remit and responsibilities, and fulfilling its statutory responsibilities in relation to the protection of nature and biodiversity.
13. Recruit to a number of key posts in NPWS immediately, additional to the filling of current vacancies, where these are needed to mitigate critical risks to the interests of the State.
14. Conduct an assessment of the grading of technical and regional posts by reference to comparable posts across the Irish public service.
15. Establish a new Engagement, Corporate and Specialist supports directorate.
The priority recruitment of 60 staff in key roles including rangers, scientists, general operatives and key managerial, HR specialists commences as a matter of urgency following this Government decision.
The Strategic Action Plan and accompanying documents can be found at:
Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage Press Office
Tel: (01) 888 2638 (direct)