Afforestation Programme

Part of Ministerial Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 1:30 pm on 2nd March 2020.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 1:30 pm, 2nd March 2020

Certainly, all afforestation will be contained in this, so that we can have a significant planting to mark 2021. I hope it will be there in 100 years' time, still in Northern Ireland, for people to enjoy and celebrate.

The Member asks what benefit there is to the farming community. There is already grant aid for woodland creation. That can be integrated into the whole farm management programme. It complements the agricultural value of the land. In many instances, farmers like sheltered places, for example, for young calves. That can be a real benefit. Providing buffer strips reduces the risk of accidental breaches of water pollution and biosecurity standards. We can reduce the ammonia loss to the atmosphere from point sources and, in some areas, it will convert steep slopes, which are hazardous for farming on, and areas that are unproductive and currently just growing bracken and gorse, into forest.

Those are all areas where we can work with the private landowners in developing. We can work with our own government bodies in developing some of those areas where land is not well utilised at present. I am sure that the Member would welcome us planting trees on such land and improving the opportunities for capturing carbon and providing environmental improvements as a result.

There is no real dispute that trees are a benefit to community. We can appropriately deliver a better-forested Northern Ireland, in line with our network of hedgerows, and create a really beneficial place, environmentally and aesthetically. By encouraging tourists to come to Northern Ireland, major benefits may be had from a programme like this.

The estimated cost is around £80 million over the 10 years.