NCL won’t kill development

| 12/12/2013

(CNS): The environment minister has said that the much anticipated and much discussed National Conservation Law will not be the death knell for development but it would not be possible to further amend the law “without rendering it absolutely useless”, as he emphasised the need for this legislation. Presenting the bill to his legislative colleagues on Wednesday morning, Wayne Panton said he was fulfilling a campaign promise and a legacy for the future by legislating the requirement for consideration be given to the natural environment in all future decisions. With no conservation law but many obligations for conservation in the constitution and international treaties, government needed the law now, he stressed.

“This bill is not going to be death knell of development. This is about making sure development can continue in a sustainable way,” Panton told his colleagues as he emphasised that the law was not about dictating anything but giving appropriate consideration to the islands’ natural resources and to secure biological diversity.

The law will also provide a way to protect endangered and threatened endemic wildlife and their habitats and give environment enforcement officers some powers to actually protect the land and marine environments from poachers.

After more than ten years in the making, the minister said it had been through numerous drafts and had been thoroughly reviewed and commented upon. He said it had benefitted greatly from input of a wide cross-section of the community and was essentially a product of three separate governments. More recently it was influenced by contributions from the independent members of the House, who nevertheless remain opposed to the bill.

Panton said he was well aware of the opposition in some quarters and said that while they claimed to be in favour of some sort of conservation, they were bent on delaying the passage of any meaningful legislation. 

“Some peoplewould cut down an ironwood tree so they can sit on the stump to issue proclamations about what kind of conservation they want,” he said of the bill’s critics. “I do not think that it is possible to amend this legislation further without rendering it absolutely useless.

“We feel what we have today and what we are about to debate is a bill which reflects a substantial compromise and principles that we should all be able to accept,” he said, adding that conservation of the environment was integral to the success of Cayman’s economy and existence.

Reviewing the long history of the bill, Panton said it had been subjected to extensive public consultation that had resulted in this final draft, which included a review by the attorney general for human rights compliance.

From the constitutional requirements and Cayman’s treaty obligations to the need to preserve a legacy for the future, Panton listed the numerous reasons why Cayman needed a conservation law.

“We campaigned on basis that we had no more time to waste and we would be passing the conservationlegislation,” he said, noting that the government was elected on that basis; it was a campaign promise made by the PPM and one it was going to keep.

“In an ever more crowded world, where others have left a better legacy, for our failure to begin the process in these three tiny islands, these tiny jewels … we will be judged harshly,” he warned. “It is an economic reality that we will not have a successful economy without proper conservation measures.”

Going into the details of the law, Panton said he did not mind repeating for the 500th time that the bill makes it very clear that only crown land may be designated a protected area and it is Cabinet under the bill not the misinterpreted Conservation Council which has the authority to designate a protected area.

Addressing the significant misinformation and what he described as “abuse” repeated by the few that oppose the law, including a local media house, which had fuelled misunderstanding and confusion in order to create unnecessary fear.

Repeating yet again that there are no provisions in the bill to take anyone’s private property, he said no land will be designated critical habitat without the support of the owner. If a private land owner says they are not interested in selling land, even if it is seen as an important habitat to protect, “that will be the end of it,” the minister assured MLAs.

He said the scaremongering fuelled by those who oppose the conservation law had led to people believing they could be arrested for stepping on a bug if it was a protected species, which was completely untrue.

He explained that the protection of species is about creating management plans so they can be helped to survive. All of this will be discussed openly and publicly and will not be dreamt up behind closed doors, he added. Panton said the council will operate under a policy of open government and complete transparency and will be the first board in Cayman to do so.

The minister spoke for over two hours detailing the legislation before he asked members for their support for the legislation and opened the floor for the debate, which is expected to continue this morning.

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  1. anonymous says:

    Headline is Total BULLSH#T!!  

    Of course it will have an impact on development and if an EIA is required it will slow down a devleopment by 6-9 months AND cost the developer $200K…and that is before he knows if he will even get permission…..this is Koolaid with Cyanide…watch out folks…our economy might go south here…silly of government to rush it.

    • Anonymous says:

      How does an EIA help the Government know what decision to make AFTER the developer has received permission?

    • Anonymous says:

      10 years in the drafting is not a rush, didn't happen before because of the vociferous self interested developers, their so-called  "professional" advisers  and the realtors and  not to forget the pandering to these people of weak and equally self interested politicians.

      And now we hear the same people scaremongering cause they finally lost their influence! Happy days for the Cayman Islands and welcome to the 21st Century.

    • Anonymous says:

      Your comment is the only BS here Mr BC! The only thing going further south is your credibility!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am growing tired of hearing people request new highways and more lanes on existing roads, while siting in their canal front property complaining about the need for a National Conservation Law. There seems to be a complete misunderstanding of the point of view of those that oppose the NCL.

    As humans, we all are naturally sympathetic to the environment, as well as have a fairly strong understanding of the importance of a healthy environment. These days this is a sentiment shared among the vast majority of us. 

    Opposition to this law is coming from those that have experience dealing with the principals which will make up this newly formed Conservation Committee. DoE isn't the all knowing, all powerful voice for the natural environment as they would have everyone believe.

    I have heard of stories where development was challenged, with DOE arguing that the area is a turtle nesting habitat, and when you visit the site the entire area is ironshore. There have been other circumstances whereby natural environments have been neglected and unvisited or studied by DoE for years, however they speak to the conditions as though they are current and recently studied.

    The problems I've heard raised by those opposed to the law argue more towards the details in the law, rather than the overall law. Things like the lack of accountability against the Conservation Committee. No legislation that speaks to the consequences to committee members that abuse their position for personal gain, and how that can/will be determined (for example, misinforming Cabinet about natural consequences of development in favour of another project). And thelist goes on…

    During this time of economic downturn, asking that the law be deferred for a few months so that these and other related concerns can be addressed first, isn't an unreasonable request in my eyes. Instead this is be pushed through so that a campaign promise can be kept, all hidden under the guise of the environment being at a critical point where without immediate action, all will be lost.

    I want a National Conservation Law, just done the right way.

    • Anonymous says:

      The proposed National Conservation Council has no actual power, they are just advisors to a Cabinet that may have already decided to waive environmental considerations.  It's already happening with the campaign for the cruise port.  The scale of destruction required doesn't even register as a concern to the Honorable Ministers backing that program.  Nobody seems to be calling them out on it either.

    • Anonymous says:

      Your assertions are truly ridiculous!   What I am tired of is hearing or reading rubbish like this!  Are you such a weak person that you are intimidated by an intelligent woman that will stand up to any man who simply wants his way—-all the time?!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Oh let’s just forget it. Grand Cayman is a lost cause. The corrupt politicians, greedy developers, and idiot voters won. Game over. Let’s admit it and move on. Time to focus on Little Cayman.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I hope that when the Law is passed that the first people to consider the invirornment will be those persons in the Government such as Dept. of Enviornmnt and Ministry of Enviornmnt. I remember quite clearly the morning I was on Red Gate Road when I saw a bull dozer there clearing the property for the Government building which I beleive now houses either the Ministry or Dept of Enviornment. There was a thick and beautiful hedge of Trichilla Havanensis, dozens of these rare and beautiful trees that are endangered and found only in George Town in very small amounts. The bulldozer was buzzing away and I begged the Caymanian person there who was overseeing the work along with an expat male and female both of whom I imagine must have has some connection with the Dept  and I also asked them  to please save those trees and told them why I was making the request. They each promied they would do what they could to  save the trees. Lo and behold the next morning when I  went back to the location it was void of any and all vegetaton. The property was cleared of every living tree and plant and carted away.

    Let's hope the law helps to eradicate ignorance and that people will realize that the inviornment covers more than mangroves!!!

    Please google Trchilla Havanensisi to learn more about this plant. Thanks



    • Anonymous says:

      Its MRCU on Red Gate Road, not Department of Environment.

      But otherwise a good example of why the Conservation Law is needed; though probably in a stronger form snce it still wouldn't stop the type of development outlined above.

  5. Anonymous says:

    The proof is is in the eating

  6. noname says:

    The Compass newspaper is on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of established science and  the wrong side of the feelings of the majority of the Caymanian people. It reads like it's nostalgic for the last government. It has betrayed its independent legacy and soaringly ignored the recomendations of the esteemed Wickstead and Giglioli reports, as well the two 'Vision' reports, which embraced  the public's input. The Compass has been reading more like a print version of Fox News recently. The editors have damaged the newspaper's credibility, and singled out for insult contributors to these pages. How can I ever trust them to fulfil their proper role of a free and honest press, an essential pillar of our democracy and the public's only tool to keep those in authority honest? I'll use it to wrap the fish in future, knowing it's just the lap-dog barkings of their financial backers, who think from inside their money-bubble that the public is so stupid it can't see through their myopically spun, self-serving pap.

    • Anonymous says:

      Doesn't sound anything like Fox News.

    • A Verified Bird Watcher :) says:

      Have you noticed that their photograph of the week is almost always a stunning picture from nature? 

  7. A Friend of Nature says:

    And I quote:It wouldn’t be possible to further amend the law, “without rendering it absolutely useless” Please Mr.Panton, you have areasonably good conservation law. Don't make it sound draconian by saying that any amendments " WILL MAKE IT ABSOLUTELY USELESS." To the ears of some that statement sounds a bit selfish. I think the law is a good start but I'm sure that there will be amendments down the road. Even the constitution of some of the worlds greatest nations have been amended.

    Environment, natural or built, is dynamic. Especially the built environment. So I say, let us all try to maintain our natural environs in such a manner that those who come after us will say. Our Forefathers Really Cared. 


  8. Anonymous says:

    Mr Panton cannot deny that as it is currently written, Cabinet can overrule the concerns of the National Conservation Council.  Having survived the horrorific decision-making of the last regime where opposition benches remained silent or powerless to object, I am naturally skeptical that the current Assembly will ante up and do the right thing when it matters.  If we pass the NCL, the voting public will all have to watch the Cabinet like hawks.  There must be absolute transparency and the requirement for public transcripts of Council meetings must be added to the NCL before it is passed.  There should also be a referendum provision to be held in cases where Cabinet disagrees with Council recommendations on major development projects with environmental impact, and developers should bare the cost of that referendum.  Discuss. 

    • Anonymous says:

      I think everything you've said is true, but what does it have to do with the NCL?

      We should be watching Cabinet (and Govt in general) like hawks now.

      We should have an outspoken and vibrant opposition now.

      We should have transparency now.

      Why should we only have these things if the NCL is passed?

      • Anonymous says:

        For starters, this Cabinet is simultaneously campaigning to build a cruise port that requires the destruction of a national marine park.  Let's start talking about that.