(CNS): McFarlane Conolly, the representative for East End on the National Conservation Council, has been appointed as the NCC chairman, stepping into the role vacated by Christine Rose-Smyth, who resigned in January. Three new members have also been appointed to the council created under the National Conservation Law, which remains a target of political criticism as it tries to balance rampant development with the desperate need to conserve the country’s dwindling natural resources.
According to the Government Gazette published at the end of last month, Conolly, who has been on the board since its inception, has been appointed chairman only until the end of September and it is not clear if he will be re-appointed.
Meanwhile, Cabinet has appointed three new voting members to serve on the board until June 2020: Edward Chisholm to represent North Side, Dominic Oliver Williams for Bodden Town and Franklin Thompson for West Bay. Nadie Hardie is the new NCC member representing the National Trust.
The council was created under the National Conservation Law, which was steered through the Legislative Assembly in a historical vote by the former environment minister, Wayne Panton, in 2013. Despite receiving unanimous support from both sides of the LA at the time, following after a number of compromise amendments made to accommodate concerns of all MLAs, the legislation has come under increasing criticisms. Politicians continue to bow to a vocal minority which sees the legislation as an impediment to development.
Premier Alden McLaughlin, who had previously supported greater environmental protection, even ensuring it a reference, albeit vague, in the 2009 Cayman Constitution, also seems to have reversed his position. In the wake of last year’s election, he stated his intention to revisit the legislation, describing parts of it as “ridiculous”.
As the political will to protect the environment faded, the situation was compounded by the appointment of Dwayne Seymour as the environment minister, in what appeared to be an add-on to his already significant ministerial responsibilities, since no other politicians seemed to want the increasingly controversial portfolio.
Seymour has shown little interest in, and is understood to have very limited knowledge of, the significant conservation challenges facing Cayman. He appears to have handed this part of his remit to the ministry’s councillor, Capt Eugene Ebanks, who has been critical of the NCC, the DoE and any attempt to expand marine protections.
So far there has been no indication when the review and the watering down of the law will begin but government officials have said the NCC will be consulted over potential amendments.