Monday, 25 June 2012

Japanese Knotweed on the Causeway Coast, County Antrim 2

and other places besides

"Jim Allister MLA: To ask the Minister of the Environment to outline the protocols for dealing with Japanese knotweed on (i) public; and (ii) private property.

Alex Attwood MLA, Minister of the Environment: It is widely recognised that invasive alien species, such as Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), are the second biggest threat to biodiversity loss worldwide.

The Wildlife Order (NI) 1985 (as amended) Article 15 makes it an offence for any person to plant or otherwise cause Japanese knotweed to grow in the wild. This legislation does not, however, give the Department the power to enforce a landowner to undertake control. Where the growth occurs on either public or private land it is the decision and responsibility of the landowner or manager to undertake control.

The protocols for controlling Japanese knotweed can be variable depending on the site’s intended end use, the size and location of the growth and the herbicide selected for use.

For example, where a site has a pressing development requirement, typically more expensive short term solutions, such as deep excavation and deep burial, would be used. For other sites, which do not have such an urgent development requirement, control is typically achieved through the repeated use of a systemic herbicide over a number of years. The location of the growth, such as growth near water or other mature vegetation, will determine which herbicide can be used and the optimum time of application.

To assist both public and private landowners to undertake control officials in the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) have developed a range of best practice management guidance documents which outline the range of control options available for Japanese knotweed. These documents are available online on the Invasive Species Ireland website and the DOE website.

In addition officials in NIEA have provided training on identification and management of Japanese knotweed to District Council staff across Northern Ireland."

The ministerial statement seems a very limp response to the threat described.

The Biodiversity Unit in NIEA is responsible for implementing the policies designed to protect Northern Ireland's Biodiversity. By working with landowners, groups with a vested interest, conservation organisations, delivery groups and other government agencies, they produce both Species and Habitat Action Plans and oversee the work of the Local Biodiversity Officers.

The NIEA Biodiversity Unit oversees measures taken to conserve, protect and enhance our local biodiversity. This includes supporting other stakeholders and landowners both practically and through grant aid to carry out the requirements of the Species and Habitat Action Plans. One of the large scale contracts they are lead partners in, along with National Parks and Wildlife Service, is the Invasive Species Ireland project.

I suspect it will take a much more pro-active approach at NIEA level to contain, let alone reduce this menace to the environment.