DAERA’s newest minister, Andrew Muir, said he would not shy away from the work that needs to be done to begin tackling the blue green algae crisis, but warned it will take investment, commitment and partnership working over decades.
During a meeting with the Lough Neagh Partnership on Wednesday the Minister also took a boat tour on Lough Neagh to see and hear first-hand the extent of the issue and to engage with key stakeholders.
“I am fully committed to urgently addressing the very serious issue of blue green algae not least to ensure protection of our beautiful environment, but to safeguard public and animal health as well as the local economy that heavily replies on the Lough,” said Minister Muir.
“It is clear, that over the past couple of decades, we have not got the balance right between growing our economy whilst safeguarding our natural environment. Lough Neagh is a manifestation of that and the undeniable impact of climate change means that there are no quick fixes. It is a complex, multi-factorial issue which will take decades to solve.
“My officials have been working with colleagues from across departments and are drafting evidence-based recommendations to tackle blue green algae and secure long-term water quality improvements. We hope to publish this plan in the coming weeks and engage in another round of extensive engagement with key stakeholders such as Lough Neagh Partnership to discuss a way forward.
“Whatever approach we take it needs to be informed by science and evidence, including lessons from those other parts of the world which are also dealing with this same problem, and working with partners to deliver better outcomes,” Minister Muir added.
Arnold Hatch, Chairperson of The Lough Neagh Partnership, said: “I am glad that Lough Neagh is a priority for the new Northern Ireland Executive and welcomed the opportunity to meet with Minister Muir.
“It’s very reassuring that Minister Muir has taken the time to come to Lough Neagh during his first week in office, as it’s given us confidence that he and his department are committed to addressing the issues and challenges that Lough Neagh is faced with on a daily basis.
“The Lough Neagh Partnership eagerly anticipates working with Minister Muir and his colleagues on delivering Lough Neagh Partnership’s strategic goals which compliment The Alliance Party’s five point plan for the Lough and which we believe begins with the creation of an interdepartmental strategy to consider water quality and integrated management, environmental protection, safety and ownership of the Lough, which is crucial now and for the future.”