Committee Launches New Investigation into Tree Disease

Synopsis: The Assembly Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development today launched an Investigation into Tree Disease.

Session: 2012/2013

Date: 12 February 2013

Reference: AGR 04/12/13

The Assembly Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development today launched an Investigation into Tree Disease.

The investigation will examine a number of issues such as: DARD's roles and responsibilities for monitoring and preventing tree disease; plans for tackling plant and tree disease outbreak in Northern Ireland; and biosecurity at ports and airports.

Committee Chairperson, Paul Frew MLA said: "Tree diseases pose real threats to our forests and woodlands and are becoming a more frequent problem throughout the UK and RoI. This is only too apparent in the recent outbreak of ash dieback.

"Although the Committee welcomed the emergency legislation that was put into place in response to ash dieback being found in both the UK and RoI, we want to look at measures to prevent and handle other plant and tree diseases. We do not want to see another fire-fighting exercise if another plant or tree disease outbreak occurs – the Department needs to be ready. This investigation is a way for the Committee to proactively take matters into its own hands."

Deputy Chairperson, Joe Byrne MLA said: "The Committee has been quizzing the Minister and her officials on her Department's response to the ash dieback outbreak for a number of months now – both in Committee meetings and in the Chamber. It is obvious from that outbreak that more work needs to be done in the area of tree disease.

"This investigation is proof that the Committee takes this issue very seriously – I look forward to exploring this issue in-depth and making some useful recommendations to the Department. It would be a crime to have an outbreak of a different plant or tree disease in the future and to not be ready for it."

During the investigation, the Committee will take evidence from the Department of Agriculture and from other key stakeholders. Following the investigation, the Committee will discuss its thoughts, recommendations and suggestions with the Minister for Agriculture and her Department.

Listen to an interview with Committee Chair Paul Frew MLA:

ENDS

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