Education and enforcement key to turning the tide on water quality, says Blair

Alliance Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Spokesperson John Blair MLA has welcomed further actions to tackle poor water quality in Northern Ireland announced by DAERA Minister Andrew Muir

Speaking during his appearance in front of the Agriculture, Environment, and Rural Affairs Committee, the Alliance DAERA Minister reiterated his commitment to a four-pillared approach to improve water quality, as well as detailed further action on enforcement.

Mr Blair said: “It is clear the approach outlined by the Minister at the Committee is the correct course of travel and he is right to focus his efforts on education, investment, regulation, and enforcement.

“Whilst we must inform people on water quality through education and incentives, there also needs to be an adequate deterrent if we are to take the bold action required to turn the tide on our water quality. The severe problems with blue-green algae in Lough Neagh will not be addressed otherwise.

“The Minister’s plans around enforcement will be significant, including reversing his predecessor’s decision to cap cross-compliance penalties. I have long raised the issue of cross-compliance and welcome the fact that the Minister shares my deep concerns and has taken decisive action on this matter.

“This move will be further bolstered by the review of fines and penalties, also announced at the Committee, and with the Department working closely with Justice Minister Naomi Long. This will be supported by the twenty-strong enforcement team that is being set up in the Lough Neagh catchment area. It is only right that the polluter pays principle is applied to ensure environmental crime is treated with the seriousness warranted.

“I would now urge the Executive to work with the Minister to ensure that the Report and Action Plan for Lough Neagh is agreed and can progress at pace. Going forward, the Minister must be financially supported and I hope bids during monitoring rounds will be treated favourably.”

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