Afforestation Programme

Part of Ministerial Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 1:00 pm on 2nd March 2020.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 1:00 pm, 2nd March 2020

The Member raises important points. The Department is looking currently at how it can actually have a better land-mapping base in Northern Ireland and the opportunity to identify, through the LIDAR scheme, where significant run-offs take place. Those are areas of land on which we would particularly encourage farmers to plant trees. We have also been looking at the areas that are closest to waterways, because, currently, farmers are not allowed, for example, to spread slurry within five metres of a waterway. We need to work with them and encourage them to plant trees around those waterways. That will be beneficial to the farmers because it will reduce opportunities for pollution of those waterways. It will lift a pressure off them that they do not need. We need to support them to do it.

Having a good assessment of land quality, various pH levels of the soil, and so on, will allow farmers better opportunities to acquire fertiliser, slurry and all that, and apply it appropriately. Planting trees on key areas of land will also assist farmers to do things in a more environmentally friendly way. This is an area where we can develop win-wins with the farming community, whereby they get appropriate support and the public get a reduced carbon footprint, better and cleaner waters, and better air quality.