City and county councillors are calling out for biodiversity officers in Cork, as the government has announced that six will be recruited to yet un-named local authorities by the end of the year.
Minister for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan announced in recent days at the National Biodiversity Conference, that funding of €600,000 has been allocated to fast-track the recruitment of six local authority biodiversity officers by the end of 2022. He has also committed to recruiting a biodiversity officer in every local authority within three years.
Currently, there are only five State-funded biodiversity officers nationally, appointed to Kerry, Fingal, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Dublin City and Galway City councils – and no officers in Cork.
The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has not yet named the local authorities which will be receiving funding, but both city and county councillors are now highlighting the demand for biodiversity officers.
Cork City Council recently committed to employing a biodiversity officer out of the city’s own budget, who is due to begin later this year.
Green party city councillor Oliver Moran says that due to the demand and ambition of Cork City Council in tackling the biodiversity crisis, a second, state-funded biodiversity officer would be warranted.
“There’s two main areas where we need a biodiversity officer, in operations with wellies on the ground working with local communities and council staff, and on the policy side of the house, doing things like developing policies and looking at planning applications and development plans. There’s big demand there to answer the needs of the biodiversity crisis, and I think with the ambition Cork has, it would be well-founded to have two positions in Cork,” he said.
He added that the fact the council have already hired a biodiversity officer from their own budget should play in Cork’s favour, rather than preclude the city from getting a second officer funded by the state.
“The fact that Cork has put aside its own resources to hire a biodiversity officer demonstrates that it understands the importance of these positions. I don't think it should rule us out nationally for the position, in fact if anything it shows that Cork is leading the way and is determined to get it right,” he said.
Cork County Council currently does not have any dedicated biodiversity officer, but a spokesperson said the council acknowledges the importance of biodiversity specialists in supporting programmes, and would welcome funding for additional resources in the area of biodiversity.
Green party county councillor Alan O’Connor pointed out that while the Council does not have a biodiversity officer, it does have three full-time ecologists who do “great work”, but who are sometimes not taken as seriously as they should be.
He said that while any additional resources for people working in the area of biodiversity or ecology would be welcome, hiring someone with the title of biodiversity officer is not a silver bullet.