IN AN unprecedented move ten of Wales’ major timber processors have formally notified the Welsh Government they have no confidence in Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) management of its commercial forestry.
The companies expressing concern include local firms Teifi Timber Projects Ltd and James Davies (Abercych) Ltd.
In a leaked letter, the companies claim that NRW mismanagement of its forestry estate risks 12,000 jobs in the Welsh rural economy; £100m of new investment; Welsh Government revenues; mill closures; and Welsh processing becoming uncompetitive.
The problem is particularly acute as NRW forestry is the principal supplier of the Welsh wood processing industry, providing over 50% of raw material to the companies.
Their principal request is the removal of commercial forestry management from NRW.
NRW ACTIONS INEXPLICABLE
Late last year, a key Assembly Committee concluded that incompetence alone could not explain the actions of NRW in the awarding of a series of multi-million pounds timber contracts to a single logging company, that led to the qualification of NRW’s accounts qualified for three consecutive years.
The Committee stressed it didn’t have enough evidence to reach a full conclusion but said it struggled to comprehend how an organisation led by highly experienced, knowledgeable and skilled individuals could repeatedly make the same mistakes despite previous warnings both by the Assembly and the Wales Audit Office (WAO).
NRW awarded more contracts to the same company without a tendering process even AFTER it was warned off by the WAO.
David Sulman, Executive Director of the UK Forest Products Association told the Committee: “I certainly wouldn’t call these actions mistakes or oversights, as has been claimed. And it seems to us that these actions were premeditated, deliberate, and made in the full knowledge of the facts and the existence of long-standing and well-understood official procedures around timber marketing.
“Talking to people in the industry, some might even go so far as to say that, in view of the very serious concerns that the Auditor General and his staff—and, indeed, this committee had expressed about NRW’s behaviour, their action might amount to almost being contemptuous.”
For Welsh Conservatives enough is enough.
Shadow Environment and Rural Affairs Secretary, Andrew RT Davies AM, called for NRW to be scrapped and replaced by two separate bodies; one handling the regulatory duties undertaken by the organisation and the other its commercial aspects.
The scandal has claimed the scalps of former-NRW Chair, Diane McCrea and former Chief Executive Emyr Roberts.
PLAID WANTS INDEPENDENT REVIEW
Responding to the letter, Llyr Gruffydd AM Plaid Cymru shadow minister for environment and rural affairs said: “This letter is a significant development in the ongoing issues surrounding Natural Resources Wales’ handling of its responsibilities over forestry in Wales.
“For the sector to state that it has lost confidence in NRW’s ability to deliver a commercially viable and sustainable service should force the government to consider looking again at whether NRW is the best vehicle to deliver some of these services.
“I am therefore calling on the Welsh Government to establish an independent review to ascertain whether it is still appropriate for NRW to continue to manage the commercial forest estate in Wales. If the inquiry finds that a change is needed then it should offer alternative models for the government to consider. If it concludes NRW is the appropriate body then it must make clear recommendations as to how to improve relations with the sector.”
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We do not comment on leaked correspondence.”
Clare Pillman, chief executive of Natural Resources Wales, said: “We fully accept that we have had some significant issues in our commercial forestry operations.
“We are taking these very seriously and have left no stone unturned in getting to the bottom of these issues, which is why we commissioned independent experts to carry out a thorough review, which will conclude very soon.
“Our relationship with our forestry partners is very important to us and we will be meeting with them in the near future to discuss our plans for improvements.”
New Quay RNLI lifeboat crew trains with lifeguards
NEW QUAY lifeboat station hosted a special training evening with the lifeboat crew and Ceredigion’s RNLI lifeguards last week.
Pete Yates, one of New Quay RNLI’s inshore lifeboat helms, worked closely with Ceredigion lifeguard supervisor, Tirion Dowsett, to plan scenarios for the teams to practice working together in casualty care situations.
A large scale scenario included four casualties to be dealt with by the inshore lifeboat crew and two lifeguard teams on a nearby beach, whilst a third lifeguard team and lifeboat crew members dealt with a separate scenario at the lifeboat station.
Pete said: “It was a great evening of training. We had 9 lifeguards and 13 lifeboat crew in attendance.
“The main scenario included casualties suffering from hypothermia and propeller injuries. A second scenario involved a mechanic suffering head injuries in the forepeak of the all-weather lifeboat and requiring extraction on a stretcher.
“On completion of these scenarios we all gathered back at the station where one of our senior crew members sprung a great act at being a diabetic having a hypo, and being suitably angry and aggressive.”
Roger Couch, New Quay RNLI’s Lifeboat Operations Manager, added: “It was great for our lifeboat crew members to work with the lifeguards as it builds a deeper understanding of each other’s roles and encourages teamwork between us. This is of great benefit when dealing with real life casualty care situations.”
Coastguard rescues dog stuck on cliffs
LAST TUESDAY (Aug 27), New Quay RNLI’s inshore D-class lifeboat, Audrey LJ, was tasked by Milford Haven Coastguard to assist the Coastguard with a dog stuck on the cliffs near New Quay.
The volunteer crew launched the inshore lifeboat at 1.50pm with four crew members on board and made their way south down the coast.
Brett Stones, New Quay RNLI’s helm said: “We located the dog on the cliffs by Castell Bach, near Cwmtydu. We stood by while the Coastguard team caught the animal. The dog was unharmed and safe with the Coastguard so we were stood down.
“However, while returning to station we were then tasked to a small vessel with engine failure. We towed the stricken boat with three people on board back to New Quay. We rehoused the inshore lifeboat and it was ready for service by 2.40pm.”
New maintenance Lorries cut carbon emissions
The Ground Maintenance Team has purchased three new lorries to support ground maintenance services in Ceredigion.
The new lorries will move Ceredigion County Council’s Ground Maintenance Service’s equipment to and from the grounds that they look after. The lorries will also take cut grass away for composting. This provides the most efficient way of maintaining the areas that the team is responsible for.
Councillor Dafydd Edwards is the Cabinet member responsible for Highways and Environmental Services together with Housing. He said: “The new vehicles replace ones which had provided excellent service for almost 20 years. They are fitted with Euro 6 engines which are considerably more efficient and better for the environment.”
The Grounds Maintenance Team is also incrementally introducing electric-powered mowers, blowers, hedge cutters and strimmers into its fleet. This equipment is better for the environment, is easier to use and causes less noise and vibration.
The new lorries support Ceredigion County Council’s commitment to be a net-zero carbon council by 2030.
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