Panton warns of tourism conflict

| 16/01/2019 | 83 Comments
Cayman News Service

Tourists returning to their cruise ship by tender boat

(CNS): Former environment minister Wayne Panton has expressed concerns that the proposed cruise berthing development in George Town and the number of passengers needed to support it could cause serious conflict within Cayman’s tourism product. Panton is well respected for his knowledge of conservation issues and, as a Cabinet minister in the last administration, steered through the National Conservation Law. He told CNS he had reservations about the proposed dock but he has not yet signed the referendum petition, despite being sympathetic to the public desire to have their say on the issue.

Panton lost his seat at the last elections, which many believe was because of his support for human rights and treating the LGBT community with equity and dignity, but he is still a member of the party he helped to found. However, he has largely stayed under the political radar for the last two years.

But this week the former offshore lawyer, who is chair of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority, did weigh in on the debate that is dominating the public discourse. Speaking to CNS, Panton said he recognises a number of challenges presented by the project, as well as the wider implications facing Cayman’s environment in general.

The former environment minister has not lost any of his interest in conservation and the need to protect the Cayman Islands’ precious natural resources, but it is not just the environmental issues presented by the proposed project that he has concerns about. He said it could prove to be a mistake to grow cruise tourism so much that it conflicts with Cayman’s overnight tourism and there needs to be a balance between the two.

“I have concerns about capacity,” he said. “There is a finite number of visitors we can cope with before we create a conflict between the tourism strategies.”

Panton spoke publicly about the port this week for the first time when he appeared on Crosstalk, Rooster’s breakfast call-in show, and surprised many people by appearing to give his backing to the Cruise Port Referendum campaign.

Speaking to CNS shortly after his radio appearance, he said that it was “completely legitimate” for those who believe in a referendum to try to get the numbers required but he fell short of committing his own name to the cause.

Panton said government should not be worried about a referendum because it would give them a very clear indication of the public sentiment about the project. He said he does not see supporting the democratic process as an expression of opposition to the project, and while he accepts that it was motivated by those who are opposed, it still “doesn’t mean that it won’t have value” for Cabinet.

“I’ve spoken with many people now about the referendum petition and not all of those who have signed are against the project. Some are in favour, as well as those still undecided,” he said, adding that the vote would serve to clarify what has become a polarizing issue.

When CNS asked Panton about the process government is following to find a developer, he dismissed speculations about ulterior motives and allegations that the minister has been operating in bad faith, saying that he felt the government was “following a legitimate path.”

Nevertheless, he said he did not support all of the decisions that have been made, in particular the removal of the Department of Environment from the steering committee.

Panton said a project of this magnitude required the proper execution of a detailed plan based on solid information. He is keen to see a new environmental impact assessment undertaken, which would provide that information from an environmental perspective for the construction.

But he warned there was much more to consider. He said passenger numbers was an important factor because of the pressure that would be placed on all of Cayman’s resources, and he warned of the threat to the tourism ministry’s long-term strategy and the need to balance cruise and overnight to the benefit of the country if the numbers are too great.

The issue of passenger numbers is also a major concern for those who oppose the project because of recent speculation that the deal government claims to have struck with two of the cruise lines involved in the tendering process has an annual passenger target of close to 3 million people.

This represents almost double the current average annual arrivals, when the Cayman Islands is grappling with significant overcrowding at some attractions as well as Seven Mile Beach and the Sandbar caused by a modest increase over the last couple of years.

Panton’s warnings about capacity have been voiced by the referendum campaigners, who have noted that this potential massive increase in passenger numbers would be concentrated in the peak season and not evenly spread throughout the year.

More importantly, by the time the piers are completed and the numbers start to grow, the attractions and activities on offer will decline because of the loss a significant number of George Town watersports operators.

The loss of coral reefs and wrecks in the George Town Harbour will put an end to diving, snorkelling, glass bottom boat tours and the various underwater submarine trips that have been increasingly popular with cruise ship visitors in recent years.

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Category: Business, Marine Environment, Science & Nature, Tourism

Comments (83)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    A few questions and comments:-

    1. Anyone remember all the your lawyers trained and mentored by Wayne Panton during his career at Walkers? ME NEITHER.

    2. Anyone recall his stance on the legal practitioners bill? Okay, so as an attorney (and partner with influence and authority) he did nothing to advance the industry or those who were qualifying under him.

    3. XXXX

    4. He supports the referendum and hopes the petition for the referendum gets the required numbers but he hasn’t signed the petition himself. Makes no sense and is clear he lacks conviction and leadership quality. He can write a good spiel but where is the action to go with it.

    Can we please stop accepting mediocrity from our leaders and public figures.

    Good day.

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    • Anonymous says:

      You seem to have it in for him personally. As it happens, his comments on this matter are what they are because he is honest, and doesn’t deal in soundbites and half-truths – like so many others. In fact he clearly despises “politicking”.

      He stood for what he believed in on the legal practitioners law despite criticism, and championed the environment and other issues even though they were vote losers and estranged him from others in Govt. because that was what he believed in, not just trying to garner votes. In fact his distaste for vote-gathering meant he ultimately missed re-election in this two-horse town.

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    • OLD Caymanian Captain says:

      I couldn’t agree more with Mr Panton .

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    • Anonymous says:

      9:50am you obviously know nothing about Mr Panton or your desire to lie is immense. I can say with confidence that the number of young Caymanian lawyers and others that I know he has mentored, trained or provided scholarships to is likely greater than your IQ. In fact there are not many Caymanian who have personally done more for other Caymanians, if any.

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    • Anonymous says:

      9:50. You are so wrong and foolishly asked a question without knowing the answer.

      I can speak with confidence to your first question because Wayne trained me and gave me an opportunity to become a lawyer.

      What you don’t know and why your comments are so awful is that Wayne used his personal funds to pay tuition for a young Caymaian to go to law school.

      So stop talking foolishness and crabbing.

      I pray Wayne will be our next Premier.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Why would he (or anyone) sign the petition? What will it or a resulting referendum achieve? Sweet F.A. is the answer. Also, I’m not in support of 2 piers or doing business with the ghetto lines.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Sorry all against the cruise pier it will be built, it’s almost finalized you will all see in a few months construction will coincide with the ending of the tourist season.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Too afraid to call out his PPM Colleagues because he knows he needs them to try and waffle his way back into the LA where he will do nothing for another 4 years.

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    • Anonymous says:

      If the immense amount of work Wayne did in 4 years (look at the LA agenda for the 4 years) is what you call nothing then a lot of us would like to have him back doing “nothing” for 8 years!

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    • Anonymous says:

      You clearly know LITTLE about this man because if you did, you would know he doesn’t need politics.

  5. Anonymous says:

    When the pack of wild dogs roaming West Bay Rd attacking people and killing pets gets hold of its first tourist, we won’t have any conflicts to worry about.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Who cares what Mr. Panton thinks? He is no different than any other person on the street.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    To whom does the ability belong that can blow the roof off the extreme problem in the Cayman Islands that people are afraid to merely request a referendum because they may lose their job?

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Be a man Wayne and stop riding the fence. Sign the petition or just shut up.!!

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  9. ppm Distress Signal says:

    Why is Panton still a member of PPM? No shame they have become the new UDP

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    • Anonymous says:

      Perhaps he should become leader of a newly established Green Party? He would have my vote as the two alternative parties are absolute rubbish. Neither party knows how to pick up the garbage.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Because Green Parties have historically done so well at the polls…

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        • Anonymous says:

          7:52, But don’t you realize that the current 2 parties in Cayman stand for absolutely nothing? Like them or not the Green Party does stand for something.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Wayne trying to have it both ways. Lots of waffling in his message. He has to support the right for referendum it’s in the constitution did anybody expect him to say different? He upset because Alden wed McKeeva but is afraid to upset his ppm colleagues. Typical politician.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    Get off the fence and sign the petition Wayne!

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Don’t forget he sat in Cabinet for 4 years as did nothing to sortbthis mess out and now wants to weigh in as he sets his focus in trying to make a comeback and takenover as Premier and political leader of the PPM. Self serving comments that amount to nothing. If he believes in democracy why not sign the petition ? He isn’t fooling me !

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    • Anonymous says:

      Nor fooling me either. Remember that legal practitioners bill that was his ondoing. That showed all of us where his heart was. He really need to stop the double speak and sign the petition, that is if he didn’t already signed it the day I saw him and some of his family by the table at Grand Harbour.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    I just wonder what his exact reasonings are for not signing the referendum petition?

    Signing the petition for a referendum is not committing a yes or no vote, it is simply a means for Caymanians to anonymously cast their vote as to whether they agree the port should be built.

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke

    So many people are patting Mr. Panton on the back here but we really need a concise reason why he won’t sign the petition.

    Why are so many Caymanians scared of their politicians?

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  14. Charles Darwin says:

    Referendum needs 25% of voters to TRIGGER.

    To shut down the dock project, 51% of voters would then need to vote against – a further 26%!

    If 51% of the people were against, it would then make sense for a referendum to be triggered and it can be reasonably assumed that at least 25% out of 51% would’ve signed and submitted their vote for a referendum by now.

    If 51% of voters support the port, there is NO need for a referendum and the project can continue on unhindered, as the MAJORITY rules in a democracy. Having your say against it doesn’t matter if majority of voters are for it.

    PLEASE correct me if I’m wrong.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Utter nonsense.

      Yes, 25% of all voters needed to trigger but only 51% of people actually voting in the referendum need to be against.

      Brexit was 51.5% leave to 48.5% remain. However, that 100% was not 100% of all voters. In fact it is fairly widely believed that had certain sections of voters not demonstrated the sort of apathy we have here, then the UK might be throwing itself off an economic cliff right now…

      Apathy is the mother of all messes…

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    • Anonymous says:

      You are assuming everyone votes and no where near everyone will vote. Only those with a vested interest or the true believers will vote.

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    • Anonymous says:

      You must be new here. The biggest employer in the territory has promised retribution to it’s employees that lend their names to a verifyable petition list, but those employees would be able to vote anonymously in a true referendum, after a period of disclosure where everyone can examine the logic fallacies and misinformation being pumped out of this regime. It might also trigger follow-on no-confidence vote, corruption investigations, and new general election.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    It would been well if we could have persons of his calibre as well as Honourable Marco Archer to be permanent members of the Assembly as they bring honesty, integrity and knowledge to that chamber.

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  16. Anonymous says:

    can’t argue with any of that. Wish he was still minister for finance too – the only one we’ve had in a long time that wasn’t out of their depth

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  17. Anonymous says:

    Can anyone explain to me how (theoretically) building a port for only 4 of our regular-sized ships, will add more passenger volume, when we are currently fielding up to 8 a day? Is this not simple mathematics that we can do in our heads? Or are we still pretending there are fleets of 6000+ passenger ships?

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    • anon says:

      because they are wanting to build the dock so that the mega ships with dock and the smaller “regular” size ships will still tender. Therefore you will potentially have more people coming off the ships – for example Royal Caribbean Harmony of the seas holds 6,410 passengers & 2,300 crew where as Liberty of the Seas holds 4,375 passengers &1,360 crew. I understand that not everyone gets off the boat (especially crew), however you are already looking at an additional 2,000 passengers on a mega ship. Say you have two mega ships on dock = 12,000 passengers, and 4 regular ships = 16,000 passengers

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      • Anonymous says:

        Where will theycwalk and what will they do. They will still be lining up like cattle all over town.

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        • Anonymous says:

          And never carrying shopping!! Just enormous, hideous shoulder bags filled with who knows what. Probably insect repellent and adult diapers.

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      • Anonymous says:

        So, we would build this dock for 2000 extra passengers every second Thursday during peak season? Why does that make sense? Are you using a 1000 year amortization schedule?

      • Anonymous says:

        So, we finally admit there will still be tendering passengers in any case. Why then is a referendum so offensive to the kirkbots who suggest there is some kind of fearful pro-tender lobby?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Because they want to have the “mega ships” with the 6000+ passengers come here because it’s believed that these ships have the higher spending passengers. Can you imagine 2 or 3 of these beast docked here with another 3 or 4 regular sized ones anchored?

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      • Anonymous says:

        (Face palm) They don’t exist!

      • Anonymous says:

        Think about how much any of these ships tower above the buildings in GT if they are close in to shore. We already can’t see the water along WBR. Forget any kind of ocean view in GT (and when they aren’t there then expect a sea of concrete).

      • Anonymous says:

        When I came with my family by plane I rented a condo and ate at the restaurants 2 times a day for 14 days plus other spending, we spent a lot of money but it was worth it my only complaint was when we were in town and a bunch of cruise passengers where flooding the streets and beach, if there’s more of them I won’t come back I’m just one person but there goes 10 grand a week when we’re here

    • Anonymous says:

      Can anyone explain how the $200 / $300 million of financing is going to come from?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Building a pier will not necessarily bring more visitors. But the piers will provide safety and security and more efficiency to disembarking visitors and create a better visitors; experience. Unlike the situation we have daily, especially this last Wednesday and a few other days this year. Piers will just give everyone a safer opportunity to get off the ships but local tour vendors will sell more tours getting a better rates for their tours than what they get now. That is difficult to understand, but common sense is also scarce.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Safety? The American Disabilities Act fines the liners are already being fined and willingly paying as a matter of normal business expense, are laughably inconsequential. That’s not an economic reason. Keep proposing new random theories on why this makes sense…

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      • Anonymous says:

        Why don’t you tell us what will happen when our diving visitors go elsewhere when the reefs are destroyed? Yes, common sense is scarce, but misleading liars aren’t!

  18. Anonymous says:

    There is a reason why he is no longer in Government. He had dinosaur vision! Build the dock!

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  19. Anonymous says:

    A fairly late and mediocre weigh-in from a former Environmental Minister. So non-committal that he is unwilling to sign the Petition himself. Campaigning has obviously begun as former Ministers sniff-out the public’s dissatisfaction with current regime and telegraph their candidacy while still playing both sides…just in case.

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  20. Anonymous says:

    What a complete disaster it is proving to be not having Wayne Panton re-elected. Please run in the next election Wayne. Cayman needs you more than ever!

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  21. Anonymous says:

    Good lad! Too bad he’s no longer in CIG.

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  22. Anonymous says:

    Great to see Wayne Panton speaking out on this issue.

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