NCL will need public support

| 15/08/2016 | 10 Comments
Cayman News Service

Public protest against the proposed cruise ship dock facility

(CNS): The full implementation of the National Conservation Law is “not a panacea” to address all of the challenges surrounding conservation and environmental protection in Cayman and it will still need the support of, and pressure from, the public to ensure it is used properly. The Department of Environment’s director has said that ensuring government entities give due lawful consideration to the environment when making decisions in future will require the vigilance of the public as well as the National Conservation Council (NCC) to make it work but the law is an important tool.

One of the agencies most impacted by the law will be the Central Planning Authority. To date it has only had what Environment Minister Wayne Panton described as a “gentleman’s agreement” with the DoE to consider its recommendation regarding environmental factors surrounding planning applications. But that has had little impact on preventing the CPA form allowing developments that have serious environmental ramifications.

From now on, however, the CPA will be lawfully bound to consider the environment, but it is not clear how the agency will show that it has properly considered the environmental impact.

Until the law was implemented, the DoE was the agency which submitted contributions from the environment viewpoint to the CPA for consideration. But it has been evident over the years that the submission by the DoE are giving little more than lip service and many of their recommendations are largely ignored.

Going forward, the recommendations will come from the NCC but there is still no mechanism through which the CPA will have to demonstrate publicly how it considered the environment and why, as has frequently been the case, it has ignored the advice.

DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said that she hoped that, given the power in the legislation now, public pressure will ensure that the CPA will give greater consideration to the implications of development applications for the environment. She also noted that in cases where there are environmental protections in place, the CPA would be obligated to follow the NCC’s directives.

But as significant as the NCL is, the implementation of this final part of the law dealing with the need to consult and consider conservation in the decision-making processes of government is not a “panacea for all development related ills”, she said.

Ebanks-Petrie said the country still needed to review planning legislation and take steps to put development plans into effect because the National Conservation Law won’t necessarily be able to stop “some of the egregious decisions” that have been made in terms of development.

She said it was important that the law was now in place as it provided the tool to prioritise the environment but it will not stop decisions being taken that are anti-conservation or anti-environment.

“But hopefully, as the community becomes more aware that the National Conservation Council is providing advice, people will become more engaged and the bodies charged with making decision will realize that they have to take account of the environment.”

Minister Panton said the objective is not to stop development but to ensure it is sustainable. He said it was clear the community is much more concerned now to see the environment protected and the law “gives statutory legs to a the existing gentlemen’s agreement … so there will now be a legal basis for the consultation”. He added that he hoped to see the community supporting the spirit of the law.

While there are no guarantees that things will change, Panton and Ebanks-Petrie were both hopeful that as public support for a more sustainable approach to develop grows, pressure will come to bear on government entities that don’t appear to have given the consideration that they should in the law to the environment.

Ebanks-Petrie said that if the people are watching the decisions, she hoped to see people making representations about whether they agree or not and that pressure will lead to advances in consideration of the advice from the NCC.

Panton said that he was hopeful that things would “evolve and become better” and said this legal framework should help provide the opportunity to deal with environmental issues based on sound advice. He said the NCC would not make CPA decisions but the CPA must consider its advice and if it is obvious decisions are being made that are not reflecting the appropriate environment considerations, then action could be taken.

Ebanks-Petire also said public pressure could also help the DoE with poaching because the law has given greater powers to her team of eight conservation officers. However, they still need the support of the public to be their eyes and ears.

She said the team is able to patrol the coastline but officers cannot be everywhere at once and they still rely heavily on the public to look out for and report suspicious marine activity. Ebanks-Petrie said environmental crime, like all other types of crime in Cayman, was on the increase and the department needed the help of the public more than ever to fight the increases in poaching.

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Category: Land Habitat, Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (10)

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  1. Donald says:

    As Donald trump states “the whole process is rigged” nothing will change as BIG MONEY speaks for these islands. Ironically the ritz developer still owes these islands millions of dollars, yet he is allowed to do another development on island with no repercussion at all!!! How can this be right? Destroys another mans home (the environment), take his money (no taxes) and is allowed to do it all over again!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    What both the CPA and developers contine to fail to realize is that even the slightest damage to our environments (all three islands) harms the very investments that the developers are making. By damaging the enveronments they are ” shooting themselves in the foot.” Wake up developers – and especially the CPA – our protection is YOUR responsibility, and helps us ALL!!

  3. Hypocrisy of the Puppets says:

    Irony of this situation is those and their parents who have been the pioneers of selling us and the island out and enriching themselves from it. Have come now to put a halt and preach preservation and now draft laws to stop it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    A law with no balls. Just to keep tge people quiet. Politicians and developers will keep doing there bussines.

    • Under the mango tree says:

      I really hope that is not the case. Many of us Caymanians want the very best for our island and wholeheartedly support the movement to conserve. If we don’t work towards improving things who will?

      • Anonymous says:

        The law mandates nothing. It is only asking the peoplevto think before act. No rules are set. So therefore business as usual.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Another law versus third world ignorance. Here ignorance rules for at least one more generation. Not too much to protect by then I bet.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Nothing changes CPA do whatever they want for friends and business.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’ll be amazed if this NCC has any impact – or if we’ll hear any reporting about these gatherings. It’s easy to be skeptical when one third of the 13 member NCC is composed of civil servants reliant on job security and funding from Cabinet, the balance is rigged with CPA sympathizers. The Council also restricts the ability of journalists to record the proceedings of meetings and has instructed the media to preregister before attending these sessions. This is inline with the pattern of window-dressing of current regime, i.e. Seeming to be moving towards missing checks and balances thrust upon by UK, while continuing the cronyism party antics of the last decade.

    • Anonymous says:

      Not true. As a reporter I do not pre-register before turning up to the Council meetings. They said they just wanted to know which media were there so they could read the stories afterwards. (I guess its easier for them than setting up a google alert.) sounded fair enough to me. Or does freedom of the press only run one way?

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