ENVIRONMENT Minister Alex Attwood today (Monday 31 October) announced that the DOE will have, for the first time ever, a dedicated Marine Division.
The new Marine Division will be an all-encompassing body and will develop and deliver policy and legislation to promote, protect and sustain the coastal waters around Northern Ireland The Division will also be responsible for implementing EC, international and national legislation.
Outlining his vision for the Marine Division, Minister Attwood said: “There is no doubt that our marine environment has a massive role to play in the lives of the people of Northern Ireland. The wealth of its resources, the splendour of its biodiversity, the simple fact of it being a huge natural resource to be enjoyed, means it is vital that we concentrate our efforts to protect and sustain it.
“Therefore we need to make sure we are managing it properly. I have now set up the Marine Division to help do that. It means we will be stronger. A stronger voice and a stronger platform for our work with other government departments, organisations and stakeholders. Stronger in protecting and promoting the sustainable use of our coastal waters. This new Marine Division is an important step towards developing fully integrated marine management across government.
“I will be going to the Executive shortly recommending that colleagues support clauses for a marine management organisation to be incorporated into the Marine Bill which is about to return to the Assembly. I believe bringing all marine functions across government departments into an independent marine management organisation is the way to go. I hope to win the argument.
“The creation of a new Marine Division is a big step forward. It sends out the message-we will strongly protect the marine environment, look for sustainable development and ensure the marine interest punches to its weight in government.”
Curran Welcomes Marine Division
Down District Councillor Dermot Curran has welcomed the setting up of the marine division and added: “This development has come at a very appropriate time. We must all work together now as best we can and benefit from this energy development on our doorstep.
“I am bringing a motion to Council this Monday evening to request that representatives from First Flight Wind be invited to make a presentation so we can become more informed about these changes that are proposed to take place. This company is part of a consortium which has been granted a license by the Crown Estate to set up a wind farm within the designated zone off our County Down coast. We need to explore all the avenues possible to protect our environment as well as create and protect jobs and our communities. I understand that the windfarm development could create a large number of local jobs along the County Down coast.
“We also need to be running this development through the Transition Committee which is managing the change process as we move towards the merging of the Down District and Newry and Mourne Councils in two years time. There is much work ahead to be done at local government level and all parties have an historic role to play in working together and in shaping our future. I think too that given the enormous importance of the windfarm development, we should organise a conference and bring key player sup to speed and facilitate a platform so we can hear various views and ideas about this process.”
Also welcoming the announcement, Peter Archdale of the Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside (CNCC), said: “This is a most welcome development which will support joined – up thinking on marine matters in Northern Ireland and reflects the significance to citizens of conserving and harnessing our seas sustainably for everyone’s benefit.”
DOE Marine Plan Team To Hold Public Drop-in Sessions
The Department of the Environment’s Marine Plan Team is visiting coastal locations during the month of November to help shape Northern Ireland’s Marine Plan.
The public drop-in sessions are open to anyone interested in or affected by activities or developments in our marine area. Tom Mathews, Head of the Marine Plan Team, said: “This plan will be the first to bring together various marine activities and resources within our waters in a planned, managed and coherent manner. The marine environment in Northern Ireland is a key asset in terms of biodiversity, recreation and tourism, which supports industries such as fishing and aquaculture and provides a valuable resource for alternative energy supply.
“The future development of our marine area affects many people and therefore we wish to encourage all those with an interest to have their say in the plan making process. By taking part in the process, you can influence the decisions being made about the plan.” The plan team is visiting to the following locations in County Down during November:
· Tuesday 6th November – Castlerock Community Centre (2-4pm)
· Tuesday 20th – Bangor Library (2-4pm)
· Wednesday 21st – Exploris (2-4pm)
· Thursday 22nd – Ardglass Golf Club (2-4pm)
· Monday 26th – Newcastle Library / The Newcastle Centre (2-4pm)
· Tuesday 27th – Kilkeel Library (2-4pm)
· Wednesday 28th – Warrenpoint Library (2-4pm)
Find the nearest venue to you and drop in and explore this new marine development further.
Pupils from 12 coastal schools will also get their chance to participate during November when the plan team visits their schools to listen and gather their contribution.