DoE urges end of illegal land clearing

| 03/01/2020 | 109 Comments
Cayman News Service
Illegally cleared site in West Bay

(CNS): The Department of Environment has expressed deep concerns, once again, about the continued clearance of land on potential development sites before planning permission has been granted. Responding to another situation, where four acres of mangroves and important flora were removed illegally, the DoE urged planning to educate the public about the law because trying to mitigate the impact of development on our environment after the fact defeats the entire purpose of the process.

This latest illegal clearance is far from an isolated incident, as this has become a significant issue which the DoE said must be addressed.

In this case the applicant removed tidally flooded mangrove forest and woodland for a subdivision in West Bay before planning permission was granted. Commenting on an application for after-the-fact planning permission, which will be heard by the Central Planning Authority next week, the DoE pointed out that there was little benefit to them being consulted after the damage was done.

“As the clearing has already taken place, the opportunity for reviewing agencies to provide constructive comments and feedback is removed. We cannot recommend the retention of ecologically valuable flora. We cannot recommend retaining a buffer between the parcels and Bayshore Drive or Uncle Bob’s Road, and between subdivided lots, in order to provide a visual barrier and assist in drainage,” the DoE noted.

“The process of clearing without permission undermines both the consultation process and the planning process. The applicant notes that the mangroves attract ‘undesirables and illicit activity’ and that the clearing will make The Shores a safer place to live. However, the current state of the site is not an improvement over the previous mangrove forest. We have received complaints regarding odour from the decaying organic material and standing water.”

In his letter of explanation, the developer stated that he did not know that the mechanical clearance of land required planning permission, which the DoE said planning must address.

“The Planning Department should take appropriate measures, which could include an appropriate public education campaign,” the department stated, adding that for the DoE to intervene a species conservation plan has to be in place. Currently, the desperately needed mangrove plan remains in the hands of Cabinet, which has not yet given its approval.

The clearance came to light after the DoE received a complaint and the planning department issued a stop notice. But by that time, the DoE said, the site had been almost entirely cleared.

“This approach to clearing and works commencing prior to planning permission being granted is extremely worrying,” the DoE said, adding that retaining ecologically valuable flora can prove beneficial to landowners and the wider area.

“The retention of part of the mangroves would have had many benefits,” the department noted about this particular case. “Mangroves provide a nursery habitat for fish and other marine life and are vital in helping to maintain good water quality. Mangroves fringing the coastline also provide a natural buffer which helps to intercept runoff from the land. In addition, mangroves help to prevent soil erosion by binding the substrate, stabilizing and protecting the shoreline.”


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Category: development, Local News

Comments (109)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    So it is illegal. What is the legal penalty for committing this act?

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  2. Mikey says:

    And not a soul arrested….

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Call CPR .They are the great protectors of the environment. Not. Just pretenders.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    A culture that does not follow its own laws rots from within.

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  5. anonymous says:

    The developers knew they would not get planning permission to do all that they did. While that developer has made a quality development, elsewhere, this has come at a cost to the marine environment, lots of fish were trapped in those canals a died. Sadly there is always some environmental destruction caused when building anything, but there should be some efforts made to improving existing or creating some new environmental sensitive properties in those same areas..

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  6. Anonymous says:

    One word: A L Thompsons Home Depot

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  7. Anonymous says:

    If they want to keep the mangroves the way they are why dont they buy the land… I would love for somebody to come and tell me which bush i can and cannot remove from my land. Need permission to clear land with machinery, please.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I hope they fine the crap out of people like you! Put a good dent in your pockets and lets see things from your perspective then. A-Hole!

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    • Anonymous says:

      9:57 what an idiotic comment. They aren’t saying you cant cut all trees and shrubs down but some like mangrove species (black, white and red mangrove) are protected under Cayman law. So sorry bobo you cant cut them down.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Actually the law is that you cannot clear anything, by mechanical means, without planning permission. In addition, other laws provide special additional protection to certain species and environments.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Point taken. Try clearing 1 acre by hand. However, it does not dismiss the fact that certain species of fauna and flora are protected BY LAW. Cutting it down by hand will still mean you are breaking a law.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Are you dumb?

  8. Anonymous says:

    I bet if someone had called the police & said someone was smoking a joint they would have been there in seconds. But illegally clear some land and no one cares. Money talks and the other thing walks around here folks. We see it every day.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    Myself and several neighbouring stakeholders attended a CPA meeting in 2019 to lodge an objection against a preferred developer. The meeting was rescheduled twice, the second time to a much earlier seating without notice to objectors, in an obvious colluding effort to have us not attend. Nonetheless we did, but the official CPA Minutes made no mention of our attendance and no detail of the objection raised. That’s the level of play at work with these CPA jirgas. Outcomes are promised before the meetings. Prices are agreed before backwarded valuation computation reports are authored. Files lost at Lands & Survey. EIAs are papered over in hindsight.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    So they arrest people gambling, but not those who commit environmental crimes? Who is more dangerous to the well being of the territory?

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  11. Anonymous says:

    Stench in Cayman, January3, 2020

    https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g147365-i261-k13123043-Stench_in_Cayman-Grand_Cayman_Cayman_Islands.html#104681942

    Retrip, who is a DOT watchdog on payroll, tries to blame sargassum. My comment about 1mil dead iguanas would be marked for removal in no time.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    I am actually shocked after reading all comments.

    What is it called when a law is not enforced?
    An unenforced law (also symbolic law) is a crime which is illegal, but is usually not penalized by a jurisdiction. It is a law which is usually ignored by law enforcement, therefore such laws have no consequences. (Wikipedia)

    Is selective enforcement legal?
    In law, selective enforcement occurs when government officials such as police officers, prosecutors, or regulators exercise enforcement discretion, which is the power to choose whether or how to punish a person who has violated the law. ..

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    • Anonymous says:

      Caymanians culturally only followed the pirate code. It will take at least three more generations before they catch up to the rest of the developed world. They still can not except a world where they are held accountable for their actions. Hence: no meaningful law enforcement.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    CPA should automatically reject and deny all “after-the-fact” applications permanently, expressly for that fact! That would be a penalty and send a message to others who are so minded!

    However, we know that will never happen because even “after-the-fact” applicants pay fees which Planning Dept. depend on!

    Greed rules Cayman!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Should would could……but WILL NOT! It is not that greed rules Cayman. It is how things are always done in Cayman. Not until another hurricane wipes out Grand Cayman things will remain the same.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Those are more stupid and irresponsible comments by anti growth/anti goverment communists (most likely not even true Caymanians but imports hiding hear to avoid paying taxes in there home countries). People sold out and beg for developers to come and spend money here, hire local builders and pay exorbitant fees but when a few trees get knocked down all the dummies come out. Get a life as this is part of progress and there is no stopping it. Thank goodness the CPA and Unity Team know that and pay you all no mind.

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    • Anonymous says:

      EXACTLY! How are these “after-the-fact” applications ever permitted? Deny the applications and fine them if money is the issue. If the action is illegal then surely some punitive measures are permitted? What is the penalty authorized by law?

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  14. Anonymous says:

    If doe enforcement officers spent more time doing government work instead of their own private business, the doe would have at least some credibility amongst other agencies. They should get their own accountability issues sorted out before criticizing others.

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    • Anonymous says:

      This has nothing to do with DOE enforcement officers (who deal with poachers not building violations anyway). DOE designs the legislations for environmental protection then they put it to cabinet to access and make into law. Cabinet refuses to pass laws on their recommendations or apply penalties when people do stupid S£*t like this. On top of that the planning board just keep accepting building applications left, right and centre. Stop blaming the DOE for all this. It’s upper government who are to blame

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      • Jonathan JT Adam says:

        WRONG! The DoE has failed in their remit and are guilty of dereliction of duty in regards to real world enforcement of the marine conservation laws. I have heard all of the excuses such as ‘we do not have enough funds for gas for the boats’, ‘we need the funds for research’ etc. ad nauseum. Unless and until there is a 24/7/365 presence upon (not sitting in a truck because that is akin to tackling traffic offenses from the deck of a Boston Whaler) the coastal waters of the Cayman Islands then the woefully inadequate status quo will continue unhindered. The factors which put together the destruction and degradation of Cayman’s marine environment are myriad and complex. Said factors are purposefully being ignored in favour of an insipid lip service farce and that which is an illegitimate and ultimately paid for influence at the hands of self interested parties of the private sector. This includes ALL matters concerning the overt maladministration of the Cayman Islands.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Should they enforce the drug laws as well? Or just the marine ones?

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          • Anonymous says:

            Doe don’t enforce drug laws dodo!!
            They arrest the scum users and suppliers who sell poached marine life for their drug and alcohol fixes.
            Read the law stupid.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Absolutely wrong!!
        Enforcement officers deal with the any works that violate the NCL, including coastal works and clearance of protected or significant lands. They are entitled to be consulted in the first instance to ensure the NCL is not being breached, which is the entire point of the article. The officers are employed to report any matter that could be a breach, but cannot do that from Fidel Murphys or ALT. They are also empowered to immediate stop any work that breaches the law, but again how does that happen whilst conducting private business interests?
        The doe is a disaster in terms of real law enforcement. They are poorly funded, incompetently managed,(if at all) and from what I hear, some are seriously lacking in training.

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        • Anonymous says:

          But this neither coastal works nor protected land sop no NCL so not DOE. – Your irrational bias is showing.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    One can only imagine that as a developer, this is not JBs first rodeo. With the magnitude of development that has been undertaken by the group, they most certainly KNOW that it is a requirement to obtain permission(s) from the CPA for removal/clearing of growth from undeveloped land.

    Of course, plead ignorance to the fact, and of course the laws will unlikely be upheld by the CPA and little to no fines levied for such actions.

    It’s how money works in Cayman. Rampant signs of cronyism exist at these levels.

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  16. Anonymous says:

    CPA should refuse planning permission in every case like this. Remove the incentive.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    What law?This is a corrupt little island with no law enforcement at all. This will not change. It is the norm and always will be. Planning dept is just as third world as the rest. It is what makes Cayman Cayman.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    If it was a caymanian we would definitely have been in jail them expect are getting a way with are island because they have the money are poor island 😡

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  19. Anonymous says:

    “the desperately needed mangrove plan remains in the hands of Cabinet”.

    This quote should be self-explanatory.

    Cabinet can act basically on a moments notice and get things done when they want to.

    But, wait for it, wait for it. Right now Cabinet is fretting about the Cruise Port issue and know that it is a possibility that it might get voted down. So basically all of their attention is on the Cruise Port (oh and yes, the enhanced cargo pier – shout out to JW).

    Larger and well-connected Developers do rule the Cayman Islands via their political puppets.

    Just makes me wonder how long it will be until wealthy Russians/Chinese start “Developing” in the Cayman Islands.

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  20. Say it like it is says:

    Why is the developer not named, does he have political connections?. He should be named and shamed, anonymity encourages this obnoxious activity.

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  21. Anonymous says:

    Anyone who owns such large tracks of land know dam well the regulations with regards to clearing mangrove forest. Unfortunately the “ignorance” card is played far to often only because there are no repercussions. It’s sad that everyone knows about and plays on the proverbial “ask for forgiveness” system our planning department has created.

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  22. Anonymous says:

    The Caymanian land owner / developer and his sons 100% knew that they were clearing the illegally. Knew planning permission was required. He told me this. He also knew that there is only one enforcement officer and it would take weeks for anything to be done… and clearing it took only a few days. Many of the surrounding land owners (myself included) went to planning on day one and called every government agency we could think of, in an attempt to stop the destruction. The system is broken. They is no stopping the illegal action and no consequences for the one doing it.

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    • Anonymous says:

      There is no longer any excuse. They actively refuse to enforce the law, which is their solemn obligation. It is actually a crime for them to refuse to fulfill their duties – something we pay millions in tax monies for them to do. The complaints should now be to the Governor and the Anti Corruption Commission. Our civil servants will do nothing.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Nothing can be done because they did not go against the Pirate code. Take all you can and give nothing back. The only law/code that is enforced in the Cayman islands. The Governor knows but is not a member of the pirate kings and one ugly Queen.

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  23. Anonymous says:

    DOE why not fine the developer? If you keep complaining after the fact nothing will ever change. It is my belief the CPA and the Developers are calling you cry babies without any teeth. It’s time to grow some balls and take these ignorant to our local laws developers to court. Just fine them already!!! Betcha you will get some respect then.

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    • Anonymous says:

      The DOE can make recommendations and put requests for laws to cabinet but at the end of the day its the court of law that has the power to pass them and to punish people who do stupid stuff like this. DOE doesn’t have to power to actually fine people unfortunately.

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      • Anonymous says:

        So what do the DOE enforcement Officers do? Just catch the poor man with a little lobster and conch to feed his family whilst the big entities and the rich get away with more ridiculous and serious crimes…..SMH!

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        • Anonymous says:

          8:39 always the “poor man” poacher excuse. No sympathy. There are quotas and seasons for a reason. Don’t poach then you wont face prosecution. Poachers don’t poach to “feed their families” they do it for greed and often to fuel there drug addiction.

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    • Anonymous says:

      It is the Planning Department who has that ability.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Does this same law apply to Dart, or is it only a law now that someone else has done it? Asking for a friend.

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    • Anonymous says:

      NO! None of these laws apply to Mister Dart. He is in control. With so much money, he tells all how it is going to be! Are some of our government leaders on Dart’s payroll? Is a pork chop greasy?

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  25. Anonymous says:

    🎵 Banana Republic
    Septic Isle
    Screaming in the Suffering sea
    It sounds like crying🎵

    Boomtown Rats ©️

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  26. Everything is backwards here. says:

    News like that have become a new “normal” and cause no emotions. This is how things are done here, so no point of stressing out about that.

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  27. Facts says:

    Surely anyone who does this should not get planning permission for development. That would be best deterrent.

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  28. Anonymous says:

    I know someone that went and inquired about the clearing of this land on the first day. Why didn’t someone go out and check on things at that time. It’s not like they cleared that in one day. If the DOE would get off their ass and go investigate right away perhaps some on the damage would not have been done.
    As for the dolt who cleared the land…….you are local right? You expect me to believe you didn’t know you needed permission to clear the land. Everyone isn’t as dumb as the one that looks back at you in the mirror. They should confiscate your equipment, fine you, and make you plant new flora fauns in its place.

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  29. Anonymous says:

    PUT THEM IN JAIL!!!!!!!!! PERIOD.

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    • Anonymous says:

      No developer has ever been put in jail in Cayman for breaking the law.

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      • Anonymous says:

        True take a look at what happened in north side when the developer destroyed the iron shore. What happened…..nothing! But time longer than rope. Look and see see when all the neighboring homes are destroyed by sea surge and guess insurance premiums will be increased and we all will pay whilst the developer makes his profits and moves onto the next project.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Once again the DOE continues to trample of the rights of Caymanian land owners. So much for progress.

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  31. Anonymous says:

    If this country enforced its laws these issues would not arise. How hard has the DOE tried to get people who have broken the law prosecuted? This is a problem of the DOE’s own making.

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  32. Anonymous says:

    A $250,000 fine or prison sentence would make for a pretty effective “education campaign”. Every developer, his architect, and his heavy machinery operator know full well that planning permission is needed for mechanical clearance, and they are taking the piss to say otherwise.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Every developer, his architect, and his heavy machinery operator know full well that planning permission is needed for mechanical clearance, and they are taking the piss to say otherwise.

      Absolutely correct! ! What is worse is that historically the Minister and the CPA members “offer” a nod and a wink to the question of clearing land before a planning application is heard. Lets all be honest and acknowledge that it is even worse now with the National Conservation Law requiring that the National Conservation Council be consulted on any planning applications. Case in point! This is a form of corruption because there are really no consequences!

      The fact that Governments do nothing to strengthen the planning law with appropriate penalties is evidence enough that the current situation suits them just fine!

      Until voters ignore the chickens and hams and vote for a Government that is not beholden to special interests this will continue.

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  33. Kadafe says:

    Since they are calling it illegal I am assuming it’s written into law? Then have a heavy fine system in place, who cannot pay the fine gets jail time. Who can pay the fine and is fined more than once gets jail time. Is it that hard?

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    • BeaumontZodecloun says:

      Agree. It isn’t a “heavy” fine now. The fine is a multiple of the filing fee, and I suspect that many development companies just factor those fees into the price of the development. We need to make it a severe penalty, and enforce it.

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  34. Anonymous says:

    Developers rule in the Cayman Islands. The DoE may say this but unless their is political will to enforce the law nothing will be done and clearing land before permission is granted will continue.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Oh please, Ryan from the Ritz Carlton cleared out Mangroves and hid it behind Marl. What is the difference? No one did anything to him? The National Trust turned a blind eye and Planning did nothing about it!!!

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    • Anonymous says:

      You Caymanians want our money and for us to take all these risks to develop here but always want to throw roadblocks in our way after the fact; lay out the rules one time and be done with it because this is causing us problems.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Only Caymanians are that dumb. If you are an expat you need to go back to school.

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      • Anonymous says:

        The Law – that you need permission to clear by mechanical means – has been in place for ages, definitely since before some of this developers previous developments for which he would have gotten Planning Permission.

        whats your next false claim excuse?

  35. Anonymous says:

    The only way to deal with this is by implementing penalties.
    First offence – mandatory $250k fine (quadrupled if you are a corporate entity), if you can’t/don’t pay – confiscation of land.
    Second offence – mandatory 5 year prison sentence (in case of corporate entities, imposed on directors) in addition to fine/confiscation.
    Third offence – mandatory 10 year prison sentence (in case of corporate entities, imposed on directors) in addition to fine/confiscation.

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    • Anonymous says:

      A simpler solution would be to enforce an automatic and mandatory denial of any planning permission for development, or registration of sale/transfer for a 50 year period following any unauthorised clearance. In effect, zone it as un-useable land for 50 years. For any second offence involving same corporation or individual in any capacity, raise that to 99 years. Third offence – confiscation of land without compensation.

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    • David S. says:

      Can’t you see laws are for the local natives to keep in line foreigners run around like the Wild Wild West. Look who’s in charge!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Why this does sound good in theory, Cabinet and the majority of politicians in general do not have the moral courage to make this LAW.
      If a Law was implemented it would be weak. And any Developer who was inclined to do the easy thing of clearing land without permission would still do so and just price the fine into the overall cost of the job (you know it is kind of like the well known people who sell numbers – well they know if they get caught they pay a fine – just part of the cost of doing business).

      The environment misses Wayne Panton.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Good luck with that. Any possibility and the people guilty will run to their friends in high places (see relatives and Lodge buddies) to have that fine binned! Greed is good.
      Gordon Gecko ©️

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  36. Anonymous says:

    Ignorance of the law is no defence.

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