Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Michelle McIlveen has highlighted the importance of caring for the natural environment.
Speaking at the beginning of Northern Ireland Environment Week, which is organised by Northern Ireland Environment Link, the minister said: “We are all stakeholders in our natural environment. Each of us has a responsibility to look after it and we all benefit from a healthy environment.
“This is particularly true for those who rely on the environment for their livelihood, who depend on it for sustenance, who live in it and who enjoy our unique and beautiful environment in Northern Ireland – it is important to us all.
“The theme of this year’s Environment Week is ‘Farming in a changing climate’. This is very relevant to the activities of my Department. DAERA brings together agriculture and environmental protection into a single body. It is my view that these are not separate, competing strands but areas with a common goal.
“My aspiration is that we all value our natural resources. I want the Department to be more connected to customers, stakeholders and the wider rural community. This will, in turn, support our economy with a cleaner and greener environment.
“I would like to be in a place where the Department can put more emphasis on offering advice rather than taking enforcement action. We must also develop a better appreciation of the environment, and understand that each one of us has a duty to look after it.
“As part of this thinking, we need to find additional ways to both protect our environment and further develop our economy. There are huge benefits for all if we care for our natural resources. Not least, the lasting legacy we leave for future generations.
“Environment Week provides a focus for debate and discussion. It allows us an opportunity to reflect; both on what we have achieved so far and what we could and should do to protect our natural environment.”