T3. Mr Beattie asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, after stating that it is good to see the Economy Minister supporting her ministerial colleague and telling the House that he looks forward to the day when Ministers from across the Floor will support each other, to outline whether, following the successful works on the River Blackwater catchment, there are any plans to expand those works along the River Bann. (AQT 783/17-22)
I would, of course, be very supportive of that from a constituency point of view. I consider the River Bann and our particular part of it to be one of the most beautiful parts of Northern Ireland. Since I walk along the river with the dogs quite a lot during the week, and this is a personal view, I consider that to be important.
I will report the issue to the Minister, and I will say on a general basis that really good work has been done with remedial tidying up and dredging so much of the rubbish that has been unnecessarily dumped in the river and so on. From a general point of view, we want to see cooperation in order to make sure that those things do not happen and that people act responsibly to ensure that the beautiful environment that we have is maintained.
Minister, I kept my questions local because I knew that you were standing in. As you know, local constituent Jon Medlow has been working hard with volunteers to clean the River Bann. I believe that you might have met him. Does the Minister have any plans to give financial aid in order to allow volunteers like Jon and other groups to carry on that important work?
I agree that it is important work. Caring for, sustaining and future-proofing the assets that we have is hugely important. I speak not just as a local but as the tourism Minister, because we need to ensure that we make the best of those assets. That is what brings people to Northern Ireland. I commend the groups for their work and what they do. Of course, I will pass on to the Minister your concerns about funding for such groups.