01/03/2006

Call for NI Marine Act receives backing

The call for an NI Marine Act from the Joint Marine Partnership (JMP) has received the backing of the Ulster Unionist Party.

The UUP's environment spokesperson Samuel Gardiner said that the "disorganised flotsam of legislation and EU directives administering Northern Ireland’s marine environment must be swept away and ultimate control harmonised through a dedicated NI Marine Act."

Mr Gardiner said that the best way to guarantee a sustainable future for the marine environment, and its unique habitats and species, is to unite strategic oversight under a single Marine Authority.

The Upper Bann MLA said: “Northern Ireland must be able to strike the right balance in developing tourist potential while also observing our responsibility to protecting the natural environment.

“Over half of Northern Ireland’s wildlife lives in and around our coastal waters. At the same time, over 21 million tonnes of consumer goods are shipped into Northern Ireland’s ports.

“Obviously there are a number of commercial and environmental interests overlapping here. It is essential that absolute clarity is provided through coherent, joined up thinking. That cannot be achieved in the present climate – our marine environment is regulated by over 100 laws administered by 20 different agencies based in different jurisdictions."

Mr Gardiner called on the Direct Rule administration to ensure that Northern Ireland does not lag behind the rest of the UK when it comes to environmental protection.

He said: "Northern Ireland must have a Marine Act addressing its devolved responsibilities, as will be the case for the other regions.

“This can’t go on. The Joint Marine Partnership (JMP) has put together a persuasive case for a Northern Ireland Marine Act and the establishment of a single Marine Authority."

He called on government to acquaint itself with the JMP report and give immediate consideration to their proposals.”

Yesterday, it emerged that pollution of waterways and coastal areas by untreated sewage was likely to lead to Northern Ireland being fined million of euros by the European Commission as the province was failing to meet EU targets on water pollution.

The former NI Environment Minister Dermot Nesbitt defended the decision reached on planning permission at the time as it had been "under review" when the executive was suspended. He added that legal advice had been sought on relevant European legislation.

(SP/GB)

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