Response to C4C

| 11/12/2013

We wholeheartedly agree with the C4C suggestion that anational sustainable development and infrastructure plan should be developed. This is essential along with other ‘green’ policies aimed at addressing waste management, the Dump, renewable energy, climate change preparedness and the many other environmental issues the Islands currently face. In fact, Sustainable Cayman has been established as a long-term advocacy group for these very issues. 

However, while these issues are related to the National Conservation Bill, they belong in new and separate legislation and policies. To be clear: "Conservation" is the protection of animals, plants, and natural resources. Waste management and recycling are environmental issues, however they should not be included in a Conservation law.  The National Conservation Bill is the beginning of an improved environmental legislative framework, not an all-encompassing fix for every issue.

The mechanisms which the law introduces are flexible, foundational and should be compatible with other sustainable development policies that will hopefully be developed in the future. The National Conservation Bill is aimed at protecting Cayman’s unique biodiversity. It is also an important tool to make continued physical development in the Cayman Islands more sustainable. But it is only the first step.

Based on current public discussions, there is no reason to delay the passage of the Bill. All concerns that we, at Sustainable Cayman, have heard about the Bill over the last month stem from misinformation and misunderstanding about the actual content of the Law and can, and indeed have been, addressed and satisfied repeatedly by Government officials.  In cases where there is some ambiguity, the Government has pledged to amend wording to accommodate those concerns.

There are few pieces of legislation where the drafting process has been so transparent and collaborative. The National Conservation Bill has been developed over the last 10 years with numerous rounds of intensive public consultation throughout this period of time. Residents of all districts, developers, landowners, quarry operators, related government departments, the tourism sector and industry and professional groups have all had the opportunity to give input on the Bill on numerous occasions. 

The Government has amended the Bill three times to address valid concerns raised throughout these consultation processes.  Consequently, the National Conservation Bill 2013 is a carefully designed piece of legislation which is uniquely tailored to the particular intricacies of Cayman’s economy and culture, balancing conservation and need for continued physical development of the islands.  

As one signature to our Statement of Support for the NCB wrote: No other law has been more reviewed and fine tuned than this one. It's time to get on with it now!

Addressing the 5 points raised in C4C’s letter:

1. We would like to clarify that there IS a representative of the Minister for the Environment in the form of the Chief Officer of the Ministry of the Environment on the Council. This representative is joined by other relevant civil servants (Planning, Environment, Agriculture), along with 7 individuals nominated by Cabinet and one representative of the National Trust.

The Council is largely an advisory body to Cabinet. All significant actions under the NCL require both public consultation and Cabinet approval. For example, every recommendation for a Protected Area designation must go out for public consultation and then gain Cabinet approval (only Crown land can be considered for Protected Area designation and not private land). The same process must be followed for every species management plan.  Further, it is Cabinet that is charged with the power to make Regulations under the Law.

In terms of the Councils participation in the planning approval process, their role is only advisory (their input must be taken in toconsideration). Theonly exception being the rare planning decisions that will impact Crown owned Protected Areas or areas that have been designated Critical Habitats, where the Council has the power to direct the originating agency to approve or refuse.

2. The appropriate fine for a particular offence under the NCL will be determined by the Courts and will depend on the severity of the crime. To take an example from the current Marine Conservation Law which has the same maximum penalty of $500,000, a conch poacher who took 40 conchs and 10 lobsters out of season was recently fined $2,400. On the other hand, a visiting mega yacht that deliberately flouted local requirements and destroyed a large section of reef in the West Bay Marine Park was charged CI$150k.

3. a) Regarding the perception of increased bureaucracy, decision-making authority over planning matters will remain as it currently is with the Central Planning Authority, Development and Control Board in the Sister Islands and with Cabinet for Coastal Works applications. For planning applications that will negatively impact the natural environment, the Council will simply have an advisory role. Their recommendations to these decision-making bodies must be taken in to consideration but is not binding (except for Protected Areas and Critical Habitats). 

Many of the requirements of the NCL already take place under a ‘gentleman’s’ agreement’ between respective Government agencies and the Department of Environment. The NCL simply makes that process legally binding and creates a level playing field for all those engaging in the Planning Approval process.  The NCL will not significantly impact Government’s budget. An Environmental Protection Fund was established years ago for conservation purposes. The Fund currently generates around CI$5 million per year.

3. b) With regards to discouraging development, we would like to quote CASE (The Society of Cayman Architects, Surveyors and Engineers): The NCL “will eliminate the current practice of addressing the environmental concerns of a proposed major development on an ad-hoc basis without clear requirements or guidelines, which is a welcome relief to investors who will now know upfront what the requirements are for an environmental impact assessment. Many international investors are accustomed to considering environmental aspects of a major development prior to the planning application process.”

Far from being a deterrent to potential investors, the level playing field created by the NCL will appeal to international developers and investors who have a long-term interest in the Cayman Islands.

For smaller developments, such as a dock or single family home, the NCL will have little to no impact.

4. This point, which states that properties adjacent to protected areas are at risk of compulsory acquisition, seems to miss the point that the concept of buffer zones has been completely removed in the 2013 version of the Bill. Consequently, there is nothing in the current bill which will limit activity on private land surrounding protected areas. Further, there is NO compulsory land acquisition in the National Conservation Bill.

In the case of environmentally important land, those who wish to retain ownership of their land or develop it, still have that option. However, the option to sell or lease private environmentally significant land to the Government for conservation purposes introduced by the Bill, opens new economic opportunities for people who do wish to sell or lease their land. There is nothing in the National Conservation Bill which will force a landowner to sell their land to the Government. Participation by private landowners is encouraged, but purely voluntary.

5. We have already addressed this point above. Waste management and recycling are critical environmental issues, however they should not be included in a "Conservation" law.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Happy new year to everyone at SC.  What is the Sustainable Cayman's owners view on the destruction of reef proposed in Cayman Brac and the ongoing issues at the landfill?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Great job Sustainable Cayman…very logical and balanced as always….keep up the good work!!!


  3. Anonymous says:

    Is there anyone on "sustainable cayman" that is not living on cleared land, does not have a cushy job or inheritance, does not drive around in a gas engine car adding to the evil 'climate change' and whose parents did not do development in the pass including ripping up the island??….didnt think so.

    These words "sustainable development" are so misused these days that I am sure no one in Sustainable Cayman can actually define it….just a buzz word.

    Hope you all like mangrove soup…..will soon be the only thing on the menu….oops… I forgot they will be protected also….hello bleak days ahead!

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you for your reasoned contribution to the discussion on the National Conservation Bill. 

  4. Anonymous says:

    The only issue with NCL is that the Cabinet can still do whatever it wants.  I'd prefer they loose that power.  Especially in regards to major infrastructure or developments where parties in Cabinet may have direct conflict.  Hopefully there is the transparency that Panton has suggested, and hopefully the sheeple will learn to speak their mind when the time comes.  There are already big challenges to NCL on the horizon, and Cabinet is already looking ahead to override the law to fulfill their ambition.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Gentlemans  agreement???? Yeah we have seen how well they have worked in the past. Just read the Bibile and you can see what a "gentlemans agreement" was with Adam and God. That apple didnt even ripe good befote the very first "gentlemans agreement " was broken.  And i can see a more powerful Eve in this law.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Just what we need, another pile of bs legislature and laws.  C4c was very balanced and trying to keep everything under one roof. But  lets start another government department and add a couple  more hundred civil servants and grow our budget and debt even more.

  7. Weapons Grade Bollocks says:

    So the NCL has, over ten years of delay, been reduced to a largely symbolic shell at the behest of the developer class.

    But that is not good enough for them. They do not want any conservation regulations at all. After all, this will interfere with their scorched earth notions of development.

    Hopefully the NCL will be passed by the Progressives and the opposition cries can finally be put to rest as the “last lamentations of the demolishers”.