October 21, 2020

Conservation Bill a good place to start

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cayman butterflyFrom Ministry of Financial Services, Commerce & Environment

GRAND CAYMAN, Cayman Islands – The absence of a Conservation Law in the Cayman Islands could have dire consequences for future generations.

Those aren’t just words from the Government, but from Caymanians who are concerned about the environment on all three Islands.

But there is hope. Five short months after being elected to office, the Progressives Government has sent the proposed National Conservation Law, 2013, to the Legislative Assembly.

“This bill, as it is now, is the place to start. It is a sound, rational and reasonable thing to do,” said Environment Minister Hon. Wayne Panton. “I know there are people on either side of the issue, but this is something we must put in place now.”

Since the law was tabled, opponents to any legislation that would protect Cayman’s environment have been spreading misinformation.

One misconception concerns private land. Under the proposed law, only Crown land can be designated as a Protected Area. Suggestions can be made to designate private land protected, but that could only occur if the landowner agrees. Either the landowner could sell the parcel to Government at a fair market value or the landowner could agree to manage the conservation area, receiving a stipend to do so from Government.

But before any land, either Crown or private, is deemed to be a protected area, the Law requires extensive public consultation and approval coming from Cabinet only. The extensive public consultation guarantees that no decisions can be made secretly or in private.

“These will not be decisions that are simply made by Cabinet. They will be based on input and recommendations from a broad range of people,” he said.

“There’s no power to take somebody’s land,” said Mr. Panton. “There are a number of very important issues that are being articulated by people who aren’t being completely honest or accurate.”

The bill presented to the LA is starkly different from the original document because there have been almost 11 years of consultation on the issue. Public input is still welcomed and residents in all districts will have a chance to meet with Minister Panton and representatives from the Department of Environment beginning on Monday, 2 December, 2013. A schedule of districts, times, dates and locations will be made public next week.

“I want to take this bill forward. It is the responsible thing to do,” he said.

The bill, said Mr. Panton, is a compromise; it allows for conservation and development to co-exist, he said.

“That is what sustainable development is all about. Otherwise we lose our identity. Once we’ve lost that, what are we? Once we’ve lost what we had, how do you put a price on that; how do you get it back?,” he said “Our children are the ones we have to be thinking about, but of course it is important to us today as well. “It is our intention to protect and defend the environment.”

The new proposed legislation does not give the Department of Environment or the proposed National Conservation Council the powers they were granted in the original draft. Instead, those two bodies will be giving advice to Cabinet.

The proposed Council will consist of 13 members including the Director or his nominee from the Department of the Environment, the Deputy Director of Research in the Department of Environment, the Chief Officer of the Ministry, the Director of the Department of Agriculture or his nominee from the Department, the Director of Planning or his nominee from the Department, someone nominated by the National Trust and appointed by Cabinet, and seven other people appointed by Cabinet with at least three of them having relevant scientific or technical expertise.

“The Council itself will not have broad ranging powers to make decisions,” Mr. Panton said. “It will only give advice, for example, to the Planning Department. That advice must be considered or it can be ignored. Obviously, if it is ignored it is at our own peril. And clearly I am not suggesting that it should be; I say it could be ignored to highlight the fact that the Council cannot dictate the outcome on 99 per cent of the decisions. The limited circumstances under which the Council’s views must be followed, i.e. it can dictate the outcome of a decision, is when the proposal involves a potential impact on a valuable protected area. For example, you would expect if somebody was going to do something next to Stingray City, that the Council should be able to say no. Stingray City is too important an asset to this country.”

The Progressives Government promised in its Manifesto that it would pass the National Conservation Law, which was first proposed in 2002.

“Our Government issued a 99-day report and we committed to taking this legislation forward by the end of the year,” he said. “We are making good on that promise.”

A Conservation bill is also needed because of other obligations.

Section 18 of the Bill of Rights states that ‘Government shall, in all its decisions, have due regard to the need to foster and protect an environment that is not harmful to the health or well-being of present and future generations, while promoting justifiable economic and social development. To this end government should adopt reasonable legislative and other measures to protect the heritage and wildlife and the land and sea biodiversity of the Cayman Islands that limit pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation and biodiversity; and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources’.

“This is a large part of why this Government is taking this forward,” Mr. Panton said. There are also international agreements concerning environmental conservation, which apply to Cayman. Too, Minister Panton will have to address the lack of a Conservation Law in the Cayman Islands when he attends the Joint Ministerial Council in London 25-29 November, 2013.

Minister Panton encourages everyone to attend district meetings and ask questions.

“Read the bill, go to the district meetings. This is a bill that is important to this country. It’s not a piece of legislation that is of limited application and that people can’t understand,” he said.

The bill is available at www.doe.ky and www.gov.ky. Hard copies are available at the Department of Environment on North Sound Road and at the Legislative Assembly.

Genesis & Chronology:

1997 – Government agreed to extension of Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife protocol and need for new conservation legislation identified;

1998-2000 – First draft produced after consultations with key Cayman Islands Government agencies

2002 –            White Paper outlining the main provisions of the Bill along with Draft Bill tabled in the Legislative Assembly

2002-2004 – Meetings with key Cayman Islands Government agencies to discuss details of legislation – amended Draft Bill produced

2005-2009 – PPM administration conducted detailed review and Bill amended. New Draft Bill posted on DoE’s website and public input invited. Focus groups conducted by Government Information Services

2010 –            Extensive round of public consultation undertaken on 2009 version of draft Bill

2011-2013 – Amendments to draft Bill made on basis of public consultation and review by Attorney General for human rights compliance. New Draft Bill posted on Department of Environment’s website

See also iNews Cayman story in today’s iNews Cayman “National Trust statement of support for the National Conservation Bill” and iNews story published November 17 2013 “Cayman Islands tables National Conservation Bill” and link to download complete copy of the Bill at:

https://www.ieyenews.com/wordpress/cayman-islands-tables-national-conservation-bill/

 

 

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Comments

  1. About time they pass this thing. Before it gets so watered down that conversationists can’t support the conservation bill because ti will accomplish next to nothing.

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