UPM aiming to gut National Conservation Act

| 10/06/2024 | 211 Comments
Cayman News Servixe
Mangroves being bulldozed on Pro Plus project site in 2021

(CNS): The UPM government has been holding a series of closed-door meetings in recent weeks, CNS has learned, in an effort to make worrying changes to the National Conservation Law to remove the already limited powers it provides to protect the environment. The UPM wants the requirement for environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for government projects to be removed, to alter the make-up of the National Conservation Council, remove the technical expertise and to allow public departments to decide whether or not projects such as roads and multi-storey tower blocks need to be referred to the NCC.

Officials have confirmed that Parliament has been postponed until 5 July. CNS understands that this delay is to give the administration time to draft the changes to the conservation legislation and still allow the 21-day consultation period before the MPs debate the law.

While there is likely to be significant public backlash to the proposed amendments if they make it to parliament, the opposition is unlikely to object, as the previous PPM administration also attempted to gut the law but pulled back from doing so after technical and legal advice. While some developers and politicians still believe the NCC is too powerful, this is simply not the case.

A committee created by the PPM-led government and chaired by then-premier Alden McLaughlin held a meeting in July 2019. According to the minutes of that meeting, which CNS has seen, legal experts found that the NCC only makes recommendations, not decisions, except in very rare circumstances when an officially protected area or species is under threat.

But since the political coup in October last year when Wayne Panton, the architect of the conservation law, was ousted as premier, he has become isolated in this matter and is the only MP likely to vote against any changes if the amendments make it to parliament. The proposed redraft of the law, which has not yet been made public, was due to be considered by the UPM caucus on Monday so that the process of getting the bill to parliament could begin.

According to sources close to the sustainability ministry, the proposals may still not make it to the floor of the House, but CNS understands that the current administration is determined to weaken the law. It is therefore likely that the changes will have a serious impact on the ability of the NCC and, in turn, the Department of Environment to do their jobs and protect Cayman’s dwindling and perpetually threatened natural resources. It will undermine the already limited powers of the NCC and allow the controversial development to continue unimpeded.

Nevertheless, the broader public continues to make it clear that they want a moratorium on development, particularly around the coasts, as well as an end to the clearing of wetlands and more, not less, protection for Cayman’s natural and cultural resources.

There have been two public meetings so far in the planning department’s roadshow to gain support for the draft Planning Statement, a preliminary document that will set the stage for the new and long overdue national development plan. It is already apparent that people want development to slow down and be focused on what is beneficial to Caymanians and their needs rather than development for overseas investors to make a profit.

The National Conservation Council and the act that created it continue to be criticised by the planning department because the NCC has challenged a tiny number of their decisions to give planning permission where the environment has been specifically threatened.

Even after ousting Panton from office, the government has continued to use the term “sustainable”, while wetlands and dwindling pristine forests, home to Cayman’s unique and indigenous species, continue to be cleared on an almost weekly basis. Coastal setbacks continue to be waived, even in marine parks, and after-the-fact planning permission is still being granted even after unlawful land clearance, and while developers are encouraged to use turtle-friendly lighting, this is not always made a condition of planning approval even in critical habitat.

It appears that the government is particularly keen to remove what it sees as the unnecessary requirement for EIAs for projects associated with the government. It aims to change the law to make Cabinet exempt from having to consult with the NCC, effectively giving it the power to approve projects such as the East-West Arterial Road extension and the airport redevelopment without an EIA.

CNS understands that the changes will allow developers and landowners to challenge restrictions on their ability to develop land, making such appeals directly to Cabinet, which will have the power to overturn such decisions.

The government is also planning to politicise the NCC and remove the voting rights of all of the Department of Environment’s experts. In addition, the changes to the legislation will remove the requirement that four of the non-government members have specific and relevant technical expertise. The changes will effectively remove science from the decision-making process around protecting the environment.

Aside from the obvious threat that poses to our environment, if the government makes decisions without fully understanding the consequences, it falls foul of the advice given repeatedly by current and previous auditor generals that CIG boards need more, not fewer, experts to serve so that public authorities become more effective and efficient.

CNS sought comment from Sustainability Minister Kathy Ebanks-Wilks, who was present at the planning meeting in her constituency of West Bay Central last week, where the audience was overwhelmingly in favour of curbing development. She responded that she was unable to comment on the amendments to the law but remained in support of protecting the environment through legislation.


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Category: development, Land Habitat, Local News, Science & Nature

Comments (211)

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  1. Courtney Platt says:

    “The Lorax” by Dr. Suess should be required reading for all newly elected officials and a written exam on the morals of the story should be passed before taking office. If you’ve never read it, do so now regardless your age! It was true when he wrote it and stands thoroughly proven today.

  2. Anonymous says:

    And what are we the people going to do about it? Sit down and b*t.. and complain amongst ourselves or from our computers? Or flood these MPs phones and e-mails expressing that we do not support this C R A P ?

  3. Michelle Clark says:

    If you want to help, please visit Don’t Pave Paradise Cayman on all social media platforms and at their website.

    Please sign the petition at the link:

    https://dontpaveparadise.ky/

  4. anonymous says:

    “CNS sought comment from Sustainability Minister Kathy Ebanks-Wilks, who was present at the planning meeting in her constituency of West Bay Central last week, where the audience was overwhelmingly in favour of curbing development. She responded that she was unable to comment on the amendments to the law but remained in support of protecting the environment through legislation”
    Of course she would not have a comment – too afraid to lose a vote! She just does whatever Mac tells her to do. Waste of space. VOTe em out!

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  5. Anonymous says:

    CIG drafting team is very small. It remains to be seen how long they will take to draft legiation… There is already a long list of promissed legislation.

  6. Truth says:

    Third world voters and their third world leadership want third world back. No laws or rules. They are just not comfortable in the modern world and they can do much better without worrying about the laws of the people. Face facts: It is a hard life living off of your own work instead of living off of the work of others. It does have its own rewards but not if that’s not what you want.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    So a few most likely compromised dunderheads are making decisions behind closed doors about eradicating something that potential affects everyone and where they live forever… got it, f*** you UPM

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    • Anonymous says:

      I used to have some respect for Andre, but not after this. He’s as bad as the rest of them if he goes along with this travesty.

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      • Anonymous says:

        I am sure he will. Several of the cabal are his constituents.

      • Anonymous says:

        Isn’t there a rule in Parliament where the CIG must vote cohesively or whatever the term is? That means unless it’s a silent vote and they go to division, they will be forced to agree with the amendments or abstain ( which I take as code for don’t agree). But point being, the rules don’t seem to give them much choice to disagree so maybe consider that aspect before you all jump to ‘vote em all out’!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Sadly Cayman is screwed and your “Honourable” Premier has been absent since she took office. The flooding alone from the recent rain shows what the continuing destroying of mangroves etc has done.

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  9. anonymous says:

    Fact – the last person to illegally clear acres of mangroves was a well know Caymanian – who made his millions as a partner at one of the biggest firms and is still raking in a huge salary along with his development deals. Greed and nothing more!

    Just watch this space – the new party coming has more money to buy votes that any ever before them. Just like the last Premier that was double crossed – the new guy wants nothing more that to be the next ‘Premier’ and will stop at nothing to get there. His campaign financers are pretty much all rich developers. Watch this space. This country is ‘FOR SALE”

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    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman getting its very own version of MAGA!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Name and shame because their adult kids are probably screaming the loudest now about degrading the environment…..just like the DOE Director whose father had a good deal to do with clearing, filling and reclaiming hundreds (maybe thousands) of acres of land….a politician too !

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      • Anonymous 2 says:

        11:07am Name and shame…the adult children are now understanding the errors of the forefathers, especially the “father of the the house” who is still selling us out for his own smugness of always beating the system. Teflon Mac. I think you should come out from under your cloak to “name and shame” so we can name and shame you too. you are definitely not a Caymanian with the average Caymanian’s future at heart. Praying you have an awakening to the error of your own accusations. Please do a second look at the objective of your comment. Where does this get us?

    • Anonymous says:

      Wayne Panton wanted to be Premier to try and restore dignity, good governance and some intelligence into the process.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    The UPM lacks foresight and vision.
    Uncontrolled development will lead to the destruction of the Cayman Islands.
    Politicians are not in control of the country, developers, businesses involved in development and foreign investors are dangling the Politicians like puppets.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    Meadows = Bergstrom. NCB = Wight. Davenport = Bodden. FIN = Crighton. I could go on but there’s a common theme. Caymanian developers.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Caymanians trashing Cayman. Lovely stuff. Most developers are Caymanian too.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    UPM is poorly named. There is nothing “United” about it, and it damn sure doesn’t represent the “People”.

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  14. We can Only Hope says:

    Question has been who are they destroying this place for? when we determine or identify and answer that question. We will solve the many other problems and hopefully get rid of it and fix even the single use plastic problem too!

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  15. Anonymous says:

    UPM sounds more like the Progressives everyday.

    Spend money on unnecessary projects to enrich the contractor cronies and large landowners.

    Both suck.

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    • Soul Rebel says:

      Politicians can you hear me:

      I am the heart and soul of your forefathers who toiled at home and abroad to give you the opportunity to be better than we were, to maintain our environment , our culture our heritage intact for generations to come,

      Can you hear me: we didn’t sell out to the foreign developers because we worked too hard to make these islands a place to be proud of for the benefit of all and now you , you money grabbing? Power hungry, greedy obnoxious leaders are forgetting where we came from, forgetting what you swore to uphold and think ona gonna get away with it.

      Let me tell Ona, try it and forget ever again walking into our house of Parliament, where your very presence there will desecrate the essence and the purpose of good governance, democratic principles and could very well call for your political demise and UK interference In our Donestic affairs.

      Are you all so narrow minded to ignore the voices of reason ., are you deaf to the cries far and wide to stop destroying our land for your agrandiosement. Aren’t you tired of robbing your people of a good quality of life and yes even that if your children and families. What do you think you are doing? Are you sufficiently knowledgeable to understand what you are setting out to do or are you being influenced through the pocket seams, Greed and avarice are they now part of your DNA, or have you sold that out too.

      Fair warning stop the madness spending and wild ambitions snd dedtruction snd for at least the time you have left in parliament try and do something of lasting positive effect for your people, the people of the Cayman z islands; the land we call home,

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  16. Concern Caymanian says:

    But….
    The UPM want the requirement for environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for government projects to be removed, to alter the make-up of the National Conservation Council, remove the technical expertise and to allow PUBLIC DEPARTMENTS to DECIDE whether or not PROJECTS such as ROADS and MULTI-STOREY TOWER BLOCKS need to be referred to the NCC.

    But public department to DECIDE? See the problems the untrained, incapable public departments has caused thus far? Look at yesterday’s flooding.

    Govt don’t give a rats bunkie about the low, middle class Caymanians. Even some high fluting residents are worried about UPMs gullible lack of decisions that’s totally dangerous and destructive behavior. Caymanians has had enough and the buck is going to stop with the people

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  17. Anonymous says:

    They are hell bent on gutting the entire country, NCA is just one small part of it.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    1. Mangroves protect Cayman from stroms and hurricanes and are a nursery for sea life.
    2. coral reefs proest the island from storm surges and allows sea creature to thrive. Also the are THE attraction for Divers.
    3. The Planning Board has never not approved a major project but gives grief to individuals who ask for a variance for the home or small project.
    4. The only entity that is working to to keep the Island environmentally conscious is DOE, and they get almost no help or encourgement or budget from Government leaders.
    5. 10 years from now when every mangrove is gone and all vacant land is filled with conrete structures, we will all go back to remembering the Dr. Suess story of the disapearing trufalo trees.
    6. A final word on government policies, $6.00 minimum wage is virtual economic slavery. Pay the people that do the work what is fair. $12-15 is better, but don’t count on it happening in our lifetime.

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    • Anonymous says:

      “Never not approved a major project”….someone clearly hasn’t looked at CPA decisions for a long time. Blue Cap …Aqua Bay….20 North….???

  19. Anonymous says:

    The greater concern about the operation of the NCC is the way the Board is controlled by DOE and the successful weak chairmen being unable and unwilling to stand up to DOE and enforce the intent of the Act. Ask DOE where is the EIA on wilderness drive in East End that gives the National Trust car access to the Salinas which was build at the expense of destroying hundreds if not thousands of Silver Thatch tress, This was fine because they the DOE and NT wanted it.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Clearing roads requires **permission**.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Actually that road was approved and started by a developer, NOT the National Trust and was built prior to the NCA. Get your facts right!

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      • Anonymous says:

        Yep. Ask Ellio (previous UDP 2009 – 2012) who built that road, and what relation the person was to him

    • Anonymous says:

      You’re wrong

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    • Anonymous says:

      #Misinformation

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    • Anonymous says:

      8:18 excellent summary

      • Anonymous says:

        Or blatant lies??? SMDH! How will we ever elect better if you people listen to anything anyone says? For God’s sake, look at the FACTS people. Does it look through your own eyes like the NCC has hindered development any???? PLEASE…do your own research, educate yourself before you go to the polls or Cayman will be lost forever.

  20. Anonymous says:

    “Sustainable” idiocracy; “sustainable” cast of morons willing to destroy Cayman for $$; “sustainable” Government policies which depend on developer funds; “sustainable” destruction of the environment in favour of concrete castles; “sustainable” corruption in public offices!!

    These are the only “sustainable” Government knows!!

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  21. Anonymous says:

    EVERGREEN.

    “CAYMAN GONE”: CLOSED-DOOR DECISIONS AND FOREIGN INVESTORS DRIVE AN ISLAND IDENTITY CRISIS”

    https://periodismoinvestigativo.com/2022/01/cayman-foreign-investors-identity-crisis/

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  22. Anonymous says:

    Mr Panton was right when he said the people of Cayman need help. Hot mess.

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  23. Anonymous says:

    #stopecocide

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  24. Anonymous says:

    F the mangroves, F the iguanas. I’m here to make money, you environmentalist freaks keep this up and it’ll kickstart investors to seek investments elsewhere. Once that happens, goodbye Cayman.

    So this is great news to us developers and land owners who make real impactful change in this country unlike the troglodyte imbeciles in support of the “poor mangroves :(((“. Cope and seethe I’ll keep making money.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Oh PLEASE leave! And take all your developer buddies with you! We don’t want any more of your ugly-ass, poorly designed, beach ruining, mangrove clearing, questionably financing, official bullying, bribe paying developments. Not one more! We don’t want you here!!! Make no mistake. You can kindly take the next flight and build your disgusting monstrosities somewhere else and be some other place’s problem. We have let developers come here and do whatever they want for decades. ‘Troglodyte imbeciles’ – do you have any comprehension of how much development we’ve already allowed? Do you think the pristine environments of the world belong to you and your Gordon Gecko friends?

      The next flight is waiting for you. If you need help getting on it, kindly reveal who you are and we’ll be glad to provide that assistance. Just let us know if it should be head or feet first.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Troll alert

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    • Anonymous says:

      The sad reality is, that you may be a broke person fantasizing about being a land developer and making money.

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    • Please go says:

      bye bye. Don’t let the door hit you. We will even give you a ride to the airport!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Oh aren’t you just so hilarious to yourself, troglodyte imbecile.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Yes this is 100% correct, we need development to keep our economy booming. This government knows how to do it along with the CPA and the very progressive chairman. Eliminate all restrictions as CPA knows what is good for Cayman. Get rid of all the stupid laws.

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    • Anonymous says:

      No one using the phrase ‘cope and seethe’ is a ‘land developer’ more likely a some 17 year old edgelord who thinks Ben Shapiro and Tucker Carlson are the pinnacle of human intelligence

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