Environment becomes casualty of new government

| 27/10/2017 | 83 Comments
Cayman News Service

The endangered ghost orchid, which is found only on Grand Cayman

(CNS): If there was any doubt, given the premier’s comments since the election, that the new administration plans to roll back the historic environmental protections put in place by the former minister for the environment, Alden McLaughlin made it abundantly clear Friday that the National Conservation Law will be amended and the requirements for environmental impact assessments (EIA) changed. The premier gave contradictory messages about the importance of the environment and the success of development in his Budget Policy Address and revealed the PPM’s change in attitude towards Cayman’s precious natural resources and more potential threats to the vulnerable coastline.

While he blamed the National Conservation Law of getting in the way of development, he said that so far this year the Central Planning Authority has approved 1,013 projects, at an estimated value of $688 million — an increase on last year’s 760 projects in the ten months to October and almost double the value, at $342 million.

While he said that Cayman’s pristine environment was essential to tourism, he made no mention of the need to press ahead with enhanced marine protection. Despite the conflicting claims, McLaughlin was clear that the balance between preserving the environment and developing was not right.

Repeating what he said in his Strategic Policy Statement in August, he described an increase in existing tension between development and protection of the environment since the National Conservation Law was passed. He had claimed in that speech that almost every new government road would require an EIA, “increasing the cost as well as the timeliness of completing necessary roads”.

But in Friday’s statement he went further, saying the problem with the conservation law was not limited to problems for road building but other “potential difficulties that are likely to arise in the context of the day-to-day application of Sections 41 and 43 of the Conservation Law”, which refers to the requirements for environmental impact assessments.

“These and related provisions have the potential to serve as material impediments not only to the orderly business of government bodies and agencies that must consult with the National Conservation Council, but also for those persons who may apply to those bodies and agencies for approvals or permits of one type or another and where the approval of the council becomes necessary in order to proceed,” he said.

But even more worrying for conservationists and the marine resources, he said there were “similar concerns as to whether the right balance exists between conservation and development, such as section 21 dealing with coastal works permits”.

Although it was not explicitly indicated, the only major coastal works licence currently in question that has raised controversies is the application by Dart to dig up Seven Mile Beach to remove rocks at a location where the developer is planning another luxury hotel.

Even though McLaughlin admitted that in the past development has won over protecting the environment, he said he would be reviewing the conservation law to determine “what amendments need to be made to ensure the proper balance is struck”.

He said the Constitution gives government the responsibility for policy outside the governor’s areas and it had to meet the “dual policy mandates of protecting the environment and encouraging responsible development to provide employment opportunities for Caymanians through sustainable economic activity”.

He said various concerns had been expressed within his new government and that Cabinet had determined that it will appoint a stakeholder committee with a sufficient cross-section of representation to review the law.

“It is expected that the committee will make recommendations for ways in which the legislation can more effectively satisfy the twin goals of section 18 of the Constitution regarding fostering and protecting the environment while promoting justifiable economic and social development,” he said, adding that the committee would be formed before the end of the year.

This budget also includes $1.1 million for a targeted green iguana cull, but CNS understands it is less than half the amount the Department of Environment had requested.

Following his comments about undermining the existing environmental protections, McLaughlin said the green iguanas were “wreaking environmental damage to the areas they inhabit, devouring plants, defoliating and killing native trees, and stressing and out-competing indigenous animals for food sources, not to mention what they do to farmers”.

The premier denied abandoning government’s commitment to protecting the environment but there is no doubt that his comments raise real concerns for Cayman’s natural resources.

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Category: Government Finance, Land Habitat, Marine Environment, Policy, Politics, Science & Nature

Comments (83)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    what’s so grand about cayman anymore? ? just another political …corrupted island as our neighbors?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Great Job Alden., Don’t be intimidated by the eco nazis. Grow this economy, the Cayman Islands will survive even if sand and beach rock is moved around.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Premier, with the Govt boasting surpluses for the last few years, and boasting a $141million surplus for the next two years, please please please explain to the public EXACTLY why YOU think the National Conservation Law is an impediment to development in these islands.

    There was no EIA required for Pageant Beach, but there is one required for Dart’s newest proposed hotel because they want to remove a tremendous amount of beachrock structure from a marine park protected area – why the hell would we not want an EIA for that application???

    You and the future PPM are rapidly losing my support with your talk or weakening the NCL in favour of certain developers.

    For the avoidance of doubt, you and PPM will, repeat WILL, lose my support if follow through with action on your anti-environment protection talk.

    • Anonymous says:

      Too bad the PPM are only listening to their “controllers”.

      It sure is not the same PPM any more. It is now CONTROLLED by Mac and his Cayman damaging gang of sell out artists.

    • Anonymous says:

      He has already lost mine. I’d NEVER vote for him again.

  4. Unison says:

    CNS, keep up the journalising on this very important topic. Yes indeed, our government has to develop our roads and infrastructures when necessary. But in the process of such works, if we hurt our nature, as small as a ghost orchid or as insignificant as a fire ant, little by little as we destroy, we grow a callous heart to the larger wonders of this life. And then who we can blame, when we end up hurting ourselves and future generation?

  5. TakeOffYourRoseColoredGlassesAndTakeAGoodLook says:

    Did I miss something?

    Except for the beautiful (and sometimes not-so-beautiful) beaches and the few marine environment areas along the coast, Cayman doesn’t have much to offer either residents or visitors. Sure the restaurants are decent (but more expensive than those on the French Riviera) but what else is there? A few small cultural displays here and there, the Turtle Center, and water sports. Not much in luxury retail, entertainment or other high end options for tourists.

    Drive or walk along Westbay Road only to see popup used car lots, overgrown lots, and trash along the way. Little beach access, NO beach parking, and nothing to encourage people to go to the beach other than condos and hotels one after another.

    Not impressive to me, and certainly not worth a second trip. Especially after looking around the overpriced dirty, outdated passenger ship pier district.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Cayman Islands’ undersea marine ecosystems, spectacular wall drop-offs and biodiversity are truly unique and vulnerable. Our islands draw marine photographers and savvy divers from all over the globe because we are among the top five wall diving destinations every year since diving was invented – certainly the best in the hemisphere. Our quaint barefoot charms are why people come back, year after year and/or buy condos. The Cayman Islands were always primarily a mid/high-end scuba bucket list diving destination, which is why we appeal to more affluent market segment. It’s a pity so few comprehend how the modern development history is inextricably linked to vulnerable ecological beauty, and instead whip out the snooty comps. It’s the very essence of the vibe we are selling!

      • Anonymous says:

        Hmm, nice try with the ‘affluent market segment’ waffle. The truth is that most visitors are not divers, they are more likely to be snorkellers who are not in your delusional high end market you so naively espouse.
        The truth is that whilst Cayman likes to think of itself as the Caribbeans answer to the rich playgrounds of the Med, it simply isn’t because of the reasons already identified by the 11:56 poster and much much more, including our isolation from other Caribbean islands.

        Cayman does not have the facilities at any level to encourage those serious high rollers who certainly don’t walk around t’shirt shops in search of a vile representation of their Carnival day trip.

        There’s no sign of a luxury marina or the faintest sniff of the cafe culture or designer enclaves that are so prevelent in the super rich havens of the world.
        There are definitely too many private rental homes/condos and not enough hotel/resort rooms, but Dart has obviously identified that market and is intent on filling the void.

        And there’s absolutely no interest in the 500 million Europeans that really do understand what travelling outside of their borders means, and actually have passports. The CITA must encourage more UK and European airlines to fly here to break the extortionate pricing of BA. It costs less to get a weeks fully inclusive vacation, (including flights) in the Bahamas than it takes to fly an hour extra to come to Cayman from Europe.

        No Cayman, your destiny lies in the pockets of the middle classes, not the super rich. You need to think about more than just concrete, you need real attractions that people are willing to pay a premium to experience, and one beautiful sandy beach, a turtle prison, the Sandbar and a few Starfish are not going to cut it.

        The one thing I do agree on is that the undersea experiences are superb, but this government and many of Cayman’s people are intent on destroying their biggest asset by grabbing developers money with little regard to the irreversible damage that is being done in the name of personal enrichment.

    • Anonymous says:

      Please tell us how wonderful it is where you come from.

  6. Zombie Jesus says:

    “The premier denied abandoning government’s commitment to protecting the environment”.

    I don’t know Alden, your actions sure to say something different. At the end of the day who am I going to believe, you or my lying eyes.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Alden- your own PPM pushed for this bill (Wayne). Typical sellout you are!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Premier & PPM- do not forget the mega mistake you made with commissioning the worst & most unnecessary design for three high schools- where only one got completed, the other 1/4 way and the other 1/10 (Beulah Smith in West Bay). Just the same be very careful how you regard the environment- mother nature cannot be called in to meetings to reason with. Once you destroy what she has given us there will be nothing left not just for tourism but protection of our ecosystem or for your grandchildren and mine.

    Also- why would you take the power away from the technocrats (Conservation Board) when they are the ones with the knowledge of the science. Stop trying to please all the rich developers- B-A-L-A-N-C-E is KEY! Be very careful how you give the decision power to the wrong group in this one. We are at a tipping point!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Can you believe the idiocy of spending $1.1 million on killing green iguanas when the DOE officers who protect our islands are few in number and denied the most basic of equipment to enable them to do their jobs.
    Having spoken to many officers over the years and listened to their frustrations, the lack of funding by government is constant and must change so that the rest of the NCL isn’t just cast aside by these moronic politicians.

  10. Anonymous says:

    1.1 millions to get rid of green iguanas and not a nut to get rid of poachers! Figueroa that one out!

  11. Paul says:

    Sounds like a government who believe in the environment as long as it can be monetized showhow.

  12. Anonymous says:

    ppm = poor people money!?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Cayman has made the same mistake the world has made. Choosing raw growth and development as the primary source of income and measure of success is our great disaster. Cayman should have decided long ago to hitch its wagon to the goal of increasing quality. Had we valued nature and our people for the last four or five decades we would be a rare jewel today with people paying top dollar to visit us. Expanding, always building more, adding people, and so on won’t work. In the end you will have little more than a dead mess of an environment haunted with miserable people. There have been many examples. Why couldn’t we learn from them?

  14. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Premier you have the full support of the caymanian people on this one.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Backwards people do backwards things out of greed.

  16. Anonymous says:

    wow clearly Waynes legacy is being destroyed in an instant. Alden also said he will get rid of 25% of the things in the Trade and Business Law that are hurting small businesses. What in the world was Wayne doing and why was he allowed to do it ? The Premier talked about unintended consequences but all along Arden and Ezzard were warning them what the conservation Law was going to do, and they were mocked, now Alden is singing their song…what a difference an election makes I can only say WOW Alden you will sacrifice anyone to stay in power.

    • Anonymous says:

      But interestingly none o them (Premier, Arden/Ezzard, Compass) can point to a single specific thing the Conservation Law has done they don’t think it should have done. – Makes you wonder what their real objection is? (Power)

    • Anonymous says:

      Arden and Ezzard dont need to be mocked. They themselves are a mockery.

  17. Anonymous says:

    another story that makes a mockery of the caymankind mantra……
    cayman is decades behind the developed world when it comes to basic environmental conservation……

    • Anonymous says:

      So true.

      Most of our MLA’s cannot even spell environment, so how do they even protect that which they do not know.

  18. Anonymous says:

    i think we the caymanians are the casualty!??

  19. Please remember CIG that without a vibrant environment our tourism product will suffer imeasureable damage and I again repeat that I am all for development BUT it MUST be a balance between the two NOT one sided as it is today.

    • Anonymous says:

      Peter, thanks again for speaking truth.

      Too bad most MLA’s are hard of hearing and too many only feel the weight of the $$$ in their pockets from the developers.

      Please keep speaking in hope that some MLA’s will hear and act.

    • Anonymous says:

      More important than the ‘tourism product’ is the fact that it shows our leaders are soulless. In Buddhism, the absence of a soul is a basic tenant. (Though Buddhist are known for a great respect of nature) For a ‘Christian’ I’m not so sure this a good sign. Alden? Maybe this is what was meant by the Go East campaign.

  20. Anonymous says:

    People often forget the parable of David and Goliath.

    • Anonymous says:

      Caymanians, rise up from your slumber before all is given away by the few, for the few to be rewarded.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Go premier.

  22. Dreadlock Holmes says:

    This should have read ‘Premier Takes Head Out Of Ass And Sticks It In Sand’

  23. Anonymous says:

    Alden Mclaughlin has just demonstrated yet again, what a dangerous “Jenny flecking” no use at all individual he is. God help us all and protect us from this Dart loving Government.!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      It is frightening to think where we will be by the next four years are over after the MacAlden government has obeyed all of Darts orders.

      God alone cannot help us, he will support us only if we try to help ourselves by letting the MacAlden government know that we opposed to the continued sellout of our Cayman Islands.

  24. Anonymous says:

    In ten years this island will be a crime ridden concrete jungle created by the Caymanian government and the greed of MLA’s to line the back pocket.
    This island had an opportunity to make it a jewel in the Caribbean but they have blown it

    • Anonymous says:

      The government “blew” it and we will now “BLOW” it!

    • annonymous says:

      how sad! What will be left if we allow this wanton destruction of everything? We cannot continue to bulldoze from one end to the other and destroy everything we have. There must be some sort of control. If property is to be cleared it needs to be inspected by DOE to ensure that there are no indigenous flora and fauna being destroyed. Any indigenous flora and fauna should be removed and transplanted rather than being destroyed.
      We can learn a few lessons from places like Cyprus.

  25. Anonymous says:

    “He blamed the National Conservation Law of getting in the way of development”

    That’s the whole point you imbecile!!! Please take a few minutes to google the word conservation!! ?‍♂️

    • Anonymous says:

      Sadly Alden will never do that, his mind is made up and will never be otherwise influenced by the facts.

      Dart, Imperato and big developers control Alden and Mac, they will follow all of their orders.

  26. The Natives says:

    Dear mr. Premier what is even worst to envorinment than the green iguanas, are the politicians and the bull dozers paid by the Developers.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Very one sided article CNS. I know we all have a view on this matter. But portraying the comments of the Premier as being a bulldozer set loose on the environment is somewhat unfair.

    The law has to offer balance. In its current form, it does not. The NCC, as a board, should look at each project for its own merit and give input accordingly. They don’t.

    As much as I disagree with Ezzard, I have to agree with him on this. It is absolutely shameful that the NCC would put such road blocks in the front of farmers trying to get access to FARMLAND. But yet they allowed a developer to clear some 14 acres of mangrove that are a buffer in the north Sound. Look at the minutes for the CPA for the past few months.

    The NCC brought this on themselves. Instead of being balanced, they are very lopsided. None they will forcefully be corrected.

    • Fred the Piemaker says:

      Umm, you realize the same changes will allow Mr Dart and Mr Imparato to tear up beach rock and iron shore completely unhindered by the need to deal with environmental impact? Or developers to drive roads through pristine areas like the Mastic Trail, and to hell with the impact on endangered orchids and blue iguanas? Or other developers to repeat the mangrove tear out? Or do you simply not care as long as a Caymanian farmer has the right to put road access into land he has h of for generations and never accessed before ie wants to sell for development? Let’s just let the developers do what they want because all we care about is the dollar today, right.

      Law needs balance my a$&. You want to remove the checks that provide that balance. Either a developer or someone that sucks on that teat.

      • Anonymous says:

        Oh and how juicy that teat is!… now back to common sense. The law will not be done away with. Just amended in areas where BALANCE is needed. The NCC believes they are Gods.

    • Anonymous says:

      “The law has to offer balance. In its current form, it does not. The NCC, as a board, should look at each project for its own merit and give input accordingly. They don’t.”

      Please give examples to justify this sweeping statement. My understanding is that they have done so, and a very, very small percentage of projects have been required to produce a EIA.

      Or are you just full of shit?

      • Anonymous says:

        Farmers s can’t get a road yo their land, requiring a EIA first, to farm in farm land?!!! BS. Like the earlier post said, no balance. Where in the hell they get their food from???

    • Anonymous says:

      Money talks, destruction is dumb. Those folks will soon have us on a reservation, in their quest to gobble up all of the land. Stupid people selling their land to the Land Hawk. There should be restrictions on land purchase.

    • Anonymous says:

      The NCC brought this on themselves??? Give me a break. Its the typical don’t get my candy but jonny got a candy mentality so I’m gonna throw a tantrum!
      Get with it. The NCC are the tecnocrats!
      The decisions must stay with them

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you know how big (long and wide) the ‘farm road’ that was proposed was? And did you look at the ‘farm’ land it actually went to? IF so, then you can answer here for all the CNS readers with the numbers of the first question.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Selling us out.

    • Anonymous says:

      I would think the votes that were bought from YOU are what sold you out. Your votes are for sale and then you cry when those votes sell you out.

      • Caymanian Patriot says:

        To clarify, I believe voting is a waste of time and the reason why we’re all in this terrible mess is in the first place. It’s proven through history that democratic capitalist and socialist governements do more harm than good. If the power was not put in the hands of the select greedy few we wouldn’t have to worry about being sold out by the low lives.

        I cry because our government does not.

  29. Anonymous says:

    AllDone expecting the steady flow of dollars to continue by pandering to big developers. Lucky if we have any natural green space and marine environment after these clowns are done. The man is a pathetic sellout let’s face it, but so are they all once they start getting favours. As his moniker suggests our environment is about to be all done.

    • Dreadlock Holmes says:

      To “green up the island” CIG has ordered several hundred potted palm trees. And 300 acres of Astro Turf no worries.

  30. anon says:

    The environment has become a casualty of the new government only because citizens living east have been the environment’s casualty for too long. Hurry and change that stupid Conversation Law so that we can build some roads out here and enjoy the same commuting convenience as those living in West Bay.

    • Anonymous says:

      You are the one that is stupid. Protect nature or else nature will turn on you, biting you in a way that will eventually hurt and kill you.

    • Anonymous says:

      Please stay there.

    • Anonymous says:

      The NCL is not what is stopping roads going east. Badly designed road corridors (lets just draw a line through swamp so deep the bulldozer sinks out of site) and through previously protected areas are what has stopped the roads. Oh, and a lack of money to build them, or value to justify their cost. – But I guess you wouldn’t want any of that coming out in a proper assessment.

  31. SMH says:

    The lesson here is simple “What have you done for me lately?” Alden destroys Wayne Panton’s political legacy as Minister of Environment in the blink of an eye. SMH

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