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The Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2023 places new reporting obligations on public bodies whose statutory functions could have an impact on biodiversity. Our Public, Regulatory & Investigations team examines these obligations and what is required by public bodies to comply.

Climate change is one of the major challenges of our times. It is therefore no surprise that protection of our natural environment and biodiversity is in the spotlight and is a Government priority.

This is reflected in the introduction of the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2023 (the 2023 Act). The 2023 Act commenced on 17 November 2023. It requires certain public bodies, including government departments, agencies and local authorities to consider biodiversity in their plans, policies, decisions and actions. The Government recently published its fourth National Biodiversity Action Plan. This is the first plan published on a statutory basis under the 2023 Act and the first which imposes legal obligations on public bodies.

We examine these legal obligations and how and when they will apply.

Requirement to comply with Action Plan and Strategy

Section 5 of the 2023 Act introduces a new part, Part VA (sections 59A – 59H), into the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000. Section 5 of the 2023 Act requires the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media to publish a National Biodiversity Action Plan. The Minister may also publish a plan, programme or strategy (Strategy) concerning the promotion of the conservation of biodiversity. All public bodies, in performing their functions, must consider a published National Biodiversity Action Plan and Strategy.

Are you a public body captured by the 2023 Act?

This new statutory duty applies to public bodies as defined in section 59H. Section 59H sets out a list of public bodies who must comply with the duty and includes:

  • Government departments
  • Local authorities
  • Planning bodies
  • State regulators, and
  • Public bodies whose activities are likely to impact on the environment such as Bord Iascaigh Mhara, Bord na Móna, Irish Rail, Inland Fisheries Ireland and Teagasc

The Minister can also prescribe other public bodies, in addition to those listed, where the Minister believes that these bodies have functions that could have an effect on biodiversity or who are in a position to promote the conservation of biodiversity.

How does the 2023 Act impact public bodies?

There may be circumstances where a public body's exercise of its statutory functions could have an impact on biodiversity. It is important that a public body considers the impact on biodiversity of any decisions it makes or actions it takes, otherwise it may not be in compliance with the 2023 Act. The Minister may also give directions to a public body regarding the performance of its functions and require it to adopt certain measures. A public body is then obliged to comply with these ministerial directions.

The 2023 Act imposes a further new statutory duty on public bodies to prepare and submit a report to the Minister. This report must include information on measures adopted and progress made by the public body in having regard to the National Biodiversity Action Plan or a Strategy. The first report must be submitted to the Minister within 18 months of the Minister’s publication of the National Biodiversity Action Plan or a Strategy. The report must be submitted on an annual basis after that.

This new statutory duty takes on immediate significance as the Minister for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, launched Ireland’s new National Biodiversity Action Plan on 25 January 2024. This will now focus the minds of public bodies as publication of the National Biodiversity Action Plan starts the clock ticking for completion of the public body’s first progress report. The first report must now be submitted within 18 months.


The ultimate aim of the newly commenced section 5 of the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2023 is to ensure that biodiversity conservation is a key consideration in the decision-making processes of public bodies. It requires public bodies to consider carefully whether any decisions which they make impact on biodiversity.

The recent commencement of section 5, together with the publication of Ireland’s fourth National Biodiversity Action Plan, means that public bodies must begin to monitor their activities to consider and note whether their actions or decisions have effects on biodiversity. We recommend that public bodies now start preparing for compliance with the new legal duties. It is important for public bodies to put strategies in place to monitor any impacts on biodiversity in the performance of statutory functions. These will be required to be included in a report to the Minister within 18 months.

For more information and expert advice, contact a member of our Public, Regulatory and Investigations team.

People also ask

What is biodiversity?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines biodiversity as: “the variety of plant and animal life in the world or in a particular habitat”. The legal definition of biodiversity in the 2023 Act is: “the variability among living organisms from all sources including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part and includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.

What is the Government’s National Biodiversity Action Plan?

Ireland’s fourth National Biodiversity Action Plan was published on 25 January 2024. It sets the national biodiversity agenda for the period 2023-2030 and aims to deliver changes to the ways in which we protect nature. A copy of the plan is available online.

When is the first statutory report from public bodies due to be submitted?

Public bodies must submit their first report within 18 months of 25 January 2024 and so should be planning now for June 2025.

The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.

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