Tree Planting: Progress

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 8th September 2020.

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Photo of Alex Easton Alex Easton DUP 2:30 pm, 8th September 2020

T3. Mr Easton asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs for an update on his pledge that 18 million trees will be planted across Northern Ireland over the next 10 years. (AQT 323/17-22)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Considerable work has already been done on that issue, and I welcome the work in my Department by the staff who have been focusing on that issue. There is absolute commitment to ensuring that we take this forward. We have also been in contact with the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy as we look to develop through that programme and receive support from it. We will be looking to draw down funding from as many places as possible, and we will be looking to ensure that we use as much of the public estate as possible and get as much buy-in from people who own private land as well in terms of planting more trees and encouraging that development.

Photo of Alex Easton Alex Easton DUP

I thank the Minister for his answer. Will the Minister consider broadening out the scheme to include forests that have been culled due to the ash dieback disease?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

In some senses, that is merely a replacement for what has been lost, but we are looking for new trees to be planted. I recognise the difficulty of ash dieback, but that is a slightly separate issue, if we were to identify support for it. I recognise that ash dieback has the potential to ruin a population of trees that has existed for centuries, not just in Northern Ireland or Ireland but right across the United Kingdom. Therefore, it causes me a lot of concern, but we need to move forward and plant as many appropriate trees as possible in the appropriate places, and we need to continue to identify a means of counteracting ash dieback, which is having terrible consequences.