People urged to lobby MLAs over NCL threat

| 06/06/2019 | 21 Comments
Cayman News Service

Cayman’s endemic ghost orchid, found in the Ironwood Forest in George Town

(CNS): At an educational meeting hosted by the National Trust for the Cayman Islands Wednesday night, attendees were urged to contact their MLAs and lobby them about concerns over mounting threats to the environment, especially from development, and to offer their support for the National Conservation Law. Many people in the audience felt that there is no way to prevent the onslaught on the environment, but Trust Director Nadia Hardie and former minister Wayne Panton encouraged them to contact their MLAs and tell them that they want more, not less, protection for the environment.

As she opened the session, Hardie said the meeting was organised because of concerns raised by Trust members about the conservation law review and fears that government is seeking to water down protections, especially regarding the need for environmental impact assessments (EIAs) ahead of major projects, and to address some of the misconceptions and inaccuracies in the public domain about the legislation.

Gina Ebanks-Petrie, the director of the Department of Environment, gave a clear and comprehensive overview of the law, explaining various provisions and powers. It is a conservation law, not an environmental law, so there are many areas, such as air pollution, that it does not cover, she explained.

The law was passed to address the complete lack of protection for any of Cayman’s unique trees and plants, such as the banana orchid and the silver thatch, and to address the inadequate protections for most of Cayman’s endemic animals.

Ebanks-Petrie dispelled a number of myths about the legislation that have been perpetuated by a small but vocal opposition, largely from the development sector, about the power of the National Conservation Council (NCC) and the requirements for EIAs.

She said that since the law was implemented, the value and number of planning applications had still grown, and of the more than 1,200 applications that the DoE had reviewed on behalf of the NCC, they had recommended EIAs for just six applications (or 0.5% of the total) in three years.

Government is nevertheless seeking to weaken the ability of the NCC to require EIAs, largely because it is government road projects that have been the subject of those EIA directions.

The DoE confirmed that the planning ministry had been directed to undertake EIAs for five road projects: one in Little Cayman, three relating to the East-West Arterial Road extension going through the Central Mangrove Wetland, and one for a farm road in North Side that would have cut across untouched primary forest. The sixth was for the removal of beach rock on Seven Mile Beach by a Dart-owned company in connection with a proposed hotel north of the Kimpton resort.

Despite this tiny number of EIA recommendations, the premier has still called the need for the National Roads Authority to conduct such assessments as “ridiculous”, and recently suggested that the conservation law was getting in the way of government’s general development.

But this decision to review and water down the law is causing real concern in the community and Panton, the architect of the legislation, urged people to engage in the public consultation over this review if they want to see it changed in some way or enhanced and also to say that they support the legislation.

As a former minister and MLA, he said that when there is enough reaction from constituents, politicians will respond, but if their voters are silent then nothing will change.

“It is critical that people do not remain silent. You can be sure that those people who want to see the law watered down will be lobbying. Don’t let them be the only ones with a voice. Tell your representative you support the law, even if you have no suggestions on how it can be changed. Let your voice be heard. Don’t leave it to those expressing views to the contrary,” he urged the audience.

After members of the audience related how their attempts to get MLAs to react to their concerns failed, or how those MLAs told them they could not do anything because they are forced to follow government policy, Hardie echoed Panton’s sentiment. She said people must pressure their MLAs, even if they don’t get much response. If enough people are calling and harassing them, they will eventually respond if they want to keep their seats, she said.

“MLAs should be answerable to the people. That is who they represent first,” she said, noting that while the aim of the current review of the law may be to weaken it, the public consultation also provides an opportunity for those who support it or want to see it strengthened to weigh in.

Ebanks-Petrie noted that the legislation was already imperfect and there was room for enhancement to improve environmental protections, but the current law was “the product of legislators”.

She explained that it was amended many times during its original consultation process, and then when Panton, as environment minister, eventually took the bill to the Legislative Assembly in 2013, there were more than 100 further changes made in the committee stage in order to get the MLAs at that time to accept it.

“It is what it is because that’s what the legislature was prepared to accept,” she said.

It was clear at the meeting that many people believe the current administration is failing the community when it comes to environmental issues, and they expressed pessimistic views that the island was already over-developed and there was little anyone could do.

However, longtime environmental activist Billy Adam urged everyone to rise up and put a stop to excessive development. He asked people to start on Friday morning by attending the courthouse to support the women from West Bay who have filed a legal action against government over beach access.

Justice Richard Williams will be considering an application for judicial review filed by Alice Mae Coe, Annie Multon and Ezmie Smith over government’s failure to register long-standing rights of way, despite some 500 affidavits in support of their historic use.

Hear the latest edition of Listen up! with CNS about the conservation law and other related issues here.

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Category: Land Habitat, Science & Nature

Comments (21)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Off you want to save the land, buy it!!!! Telling people what to do with their own property is so…..Robert Mugabe.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    It is becoming apparent that IT IS TOO LATE to save ourselves. The environment will bounce right back after humans are gone. This small speck on the surface of the planet CANNOT make one bit of difference in the loosing fight to save the environment.

    Developed countries are going full steam ahead, we can’t stop them. So why bother? And please don’t give me the “morale high ground” foolishness. That’s stupid. Might as well make the best of it while it last!!!

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Development is a necessary evil. Yes, I’m all for sustainable development. I find it laughable how so many people are here in Cayman because of its economy, but now want to shut the door behind them!!!!

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Every notice the more these people regulate, the treats and alarmism always increase?

    There is *always* a crisis, and *they* are always the solution, and *you* have to accept it

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    • Anonymous says:

      And someday you’ll accept it as well, though I doubt you’d be a very good canary in the coal mine.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Frankly, it’s really MLAs that wish to remain in office that should be urged to reach out to their few hundred constituents, on a range of subjects. Anyone can cut and paste the list into an excel spreadsheet, and cross ref addresses and numbers from the public phone book. Anyone except our own MLAs that is.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    This goes hand in hand with the port protestors. Once the indigenous plants and animals are gone and extinct what is so special about Cayman to see?

    What is the draw for tourists? What is left for our children to see? So many already have no idea about any local plants as it is. Do we really want to destroy the rest so that we can look like a miniature Miami/Los Angeles without the amenities?

    Cayman barely looks like a island anymore. Just an overdeveloped monstrosity with absolutely nothing special to see.

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    • Anonymous says:

      That’s the feedback coming from the tourists on Trip Advisor recently too. Concerned at the overcrowding, and over-development on SMB, and the way most of the rest of the beaches around the island have been neglected for years and piled up with trash and sargassum. I feel much the same, but they come for a desert island experience and feel like they got off at Miami. Can’t blame them for going elsewhere. Sometimes wish I could.

    • Anonymous says:

      The blow holes are worth a picture or 2

  7. Anonymous says:

    Their representative was the main proponent in selling/giving away the West Bay road/beach to the elite of the day.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Stop this aggression towards our major developers. We need the growth and jobs. Thank goodness our Premier is a forward thinking man.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Your major developers have a lot of money and the moral development of a pre-teen boy. I want them to stop destroying my planet.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    Could someone (Caymanian) please start a petition?

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Not a hope in hell. This government and dart wants concrete everywhere.

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  11. Ron Ebanks says:

    6:03 pm , why should the primary objectors have to have lobbiest ?
    Isn’t the Islands belongs to these politicians as much as next Caymanian ? Why do they need to be lobbied to protect it ?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Excellent point. Everyone needs to think like this. Why do the idiots that are killing the world have the first say? We let them, that’s why.

  12. Ron Ebanks says:

    I am totally disappointed with all 19 politicians for their lack of concerns for the environment and conservation Laws , absolutely no respect for nothing but that God almighty dollars.
    I think why they aren’t doing anything with doing conservation and protecting the environment is because they know it’s a good possibility that they won’t be returning in 2021 . So they are trying to get the $$$ and the development done now .

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  13. Anonymous says:

    The primary objectors have no representative to lobby.

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