DoE takes NCL on the road

| 02/07/2010

(CNS): The Department of Environment received a mixed response to its presentation of the National Conservation Law in North Side on Thursday evening. At the first of the department’s community outreach meetings to present the latest draft of the bill, the small group of people offered differing opinions to the director’s presentation. A number of them said that North Siders above all others knew how to conserve and develop sensibly, which is why their district was still so beautiful. They were concerned that the law may punish the small man while still allowing major developers to tear up mangrove buffers. (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

The audience response to the comprehensive presentation by Gina Ebanks-Petrie was mixed, with some supporting the bill and others suggesting that it was both too broad a brush and at the same time not powerful enough. The example of the recent removal of what was described as 300 acres of mangrove buffer by the developer of the Ritz Carlton, (although the developer says that 300ft or eight acres was removed) was raised a number of times, with people voicing concerns that this would still happen even if this law was passed.
There were also some concerns and misunderstanding about the intention in the law to protect certain species and the director pointed out on a number of occasions that people would not be prevented from developing their land as a result of finding such things as fire ants on it. She explained that the law was not about preventing development but nor was it a fix-all solution to amend the problems associated with the planning law.
The composition of the council raised a number of questions from the audience. As provided for in the law, the council’s main goal will be to suggest and advise the need for environmental impact assessments. Some people at the meeting said they wanted to see more business minded people on it as in the draft it was weighted in favour of environmentalists.
Others said there was a possibility that the council’s members could be persuaded not to recommend EIA’s for some developers as only five members were needed for a quorum with a simple majority.
There were a considerable number of political faces in the audience: Ezzard Miller, the independent member for the district, was present along with opposition MLAs Arden McLean from East End and Anthony Eden from Bodden Town. Also at the meeting were Derrington ‘Bo’ Miller, a North Sider who ran as an independent candidate in the last two elections in both North Side and George Town and who supports the legislation, and Justin Woods, who ran in Bodden Town and who does not support it.
With the exception of Ezzard Miller, who spoke briefly and said he would be holding his own meeting about the law on the 7 July, none of the three elected members of the Legislative Assembly spoke during the meeting.
However, Woods, who is in the quarrying business, accused the DoE of twisting figures as he said that while the west of the Island had been extensively developed, the rest of the island was underdeveloped.  He asked why the country needed to give the DoE the power to tell people not to develop their land. “This is designed to slow down the economy,” Woods claimed.
John Bothwell from the DoE team pointed out that while the eastern and northern areas of the island had not lost the level of habitat as was the case in the west, the law would seek to preserve what was left of the green spaces.
We know what has happened in the west and the point is we don’t want that t happen everywhere,” Bothwell explained.
Jerris Miller the president of the Maritime Heritage Foundation, spoke passionately about the conservation of the environment by residents of North Side and said a place should have been created on the council for a person from the district.
“North Side people are the most conservation minded people,” he said. “We are the people who know how to conserve and develop sensibly, we are the only people who have a 1500 foot mangrove buffer zone but you can’t give us a seat on the council?” he asked, noting that a seat was earmarked for someone from Cayman Brac. He said no one had consulted him about the law or anyone in North Side, who were not asked the time of day despite the fact that they had not ruined their district.
Miller told CNS that he believed the problem with the latest draft of the law was it remained the same as all previous drafts as it was not from the grass roots up but was being imposed on people. “Before you write a law you should come to North Side,” he said, but added that he was in favour of conservation.
The law has been in discussion now for almost a decade, and while the arguments persist about the content of the law, the natural environment and the vast majority of endemic species remain virtually unprotected in law. At present there is nothing to stop people from killing, collecting and destroying most of the terrestrial species, including those which are critically endangered.
The North Side meeting was the first in a serious of open public forums by the DoE:  Tuesday 6 July at the Bodden Town Primary School Hall; Thursday 8 July at Elmslie Memorial Church Hall, George Town; Saturday 10 July at National Trust House, Little Cayman; Monday 12 July at John A. Cumber Hall, West Bay; Tuesday 13 July at East End Community Centre; and the final meeting on Thursday 15 July at the Aston Rutty Centre, Cayman Brac.
The law and summary guide can be downloaded at www.doe.ky .The public consultation period will last until Friday, 16 July. Until then, anyone can comment on the legislation. Comment forms are available online at www.doe.ky and printed copies can be picked up from the DoE’s office or at any of the district public meetings. Comments can also be submitted by email to DoE@gov.ky ; Faxed to 949 4020, or mailed to NCL Comment, c/o Department of Environment, P.O. Box 486, Grand Cayman, KY1-1006.
People who do not wish to offer comment can also simply show their support for the legislation by writing to the department or the ministry. CNS readers can also vote in the CNS poll.
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Comments (7)

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  1. Ken P says:

    The reason Cayman has been so developed is because of greed. So many of our people can’t seem to realize that if we don’t protect our natural environment we’ll be more prone to hurricanes, global warming and natural disasters. Remember you don’t own land as you’ll never take it with you once you’re gone all you’ll get is a piece of dirt wen you’re placed in the ground. So for Mr. Woods please consider your decision to be a developer and be mindful that we need to conserve as much green areas and native flora and fauna for our grandchildren don’t think of money.

    Barkers, Meagre Bay, Colliers and Ironwood forest are areas that need to be National Protected Parks. I ask of all residents to do the right thing and attend these meetings and get this bill passed. Let us make Little Cayman a Nature Reserve similar to islands in BVI and Cayman Brac a Heritage and Cultural destination.

    Blessings to all.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think all will support a series of National Parks, Mr. Woods even suggested it at the meeting. The problem is that the wording of the current bill goes far beyond that and will reduce the value of privately held land, make it harder for poor Caymanians to utilise their property, further slow the economy, cause more unemployment and potentially more crime, and make it even more difficult for a poor person to own a home.

    • Anonymous says:

      Mr. Ken P

      Do you live in a cave? I think not. Someone developed the area in which you reside and built the house you live in.

      We have to be careful not to become elitist who think once we have what we want all should stop and no one else "really needs" anything.

      Development must continue in order to maintain the standard of living we currently have. To provide housing and employment.

      We need to develop and redevelop in the most environmentally friendly way possible but slowing the econnomy does not help the environment. Just ask Hati wher practically every tre has been cut down simply for fire wood as there is such little gainful employment.

  2. Looking into the fishbowl says:

     "Before you write a law you should come to Northside" says Mr Jerris Miller – really?  why?  Is it because the whole of Cayman actually revolves around Northside?  What utter nonsense.  I have no doubt the law, which has taken a very long time to come about, was constructed with ALL areas of Cayman in mind.  Sadly it will not protect Cayman from certain wealthy and influentially related people from doing exactly what they want to do.  You only have to look at the way they changed the maximum number of storeys when a large hotel on seven mile beach got built. 

  3. Anonymous says:

    A classic example of rules being broken for the few those hold power & influence. Put the boots to the small guy while letting the bully on the block get away with murder. No matter what the well-qualified experts at DoE say it all comes down to political horse-trading again. If it where transparent that certain developers where greasing the palms of certain politicians this we might not have this story.

    Just plan for the island to be a concrete jungle and have done with it, that’s ultimately where it’s all going.

    Why is it that our politicians have not seen the same value in our natural resources as our once financial industry? Sir Vassel was the visionary that facilitated the idea of a little Switzerland in Cayman. Where is our white knight in the legislature championing responsible and sustainable development on a path, which respects the environment?

    Even if a law does not exist it is unfortunately left up to an individual responsibility for our fragile environment, which seems all to often to be only driven by short-term gain. Let’s face it, we don’t have much here in terms of natural ecological resources but you would expect that what we have is precious and without a doubt would be worth protecting and replenishing no matter who wants to destroy for development.

    Greed has been the demise of many civilizations; let’s hope Cayman is not soon to follow.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Whilst I applaud the efforts to bring this law into effect, it will only make sense if comes with teeth and if anyone can and actually will enforce it. Furthermore, it is essential that the planning dept and board (never mind which government is in power) stands behind it.

    As things are right now, planning laws are not enforced and neither are any laws that deal with littering. So if the law just "sits" there, and the people with deep pockets and the right connections can get it around it, what is the point?

    • Anonymous says:

      Hear, hear. My sentiments exactly!

      Unless the laws (both Planning and Environment) have real teeth whereby those who break them can be jailed and/or fined…and unless the Govt. will enforce such laws without fear nor favour, then it won’t be worth the paper it’s written on!

      Cayman does not need another set of laws with no teeth!