Photo of the Remarkables mountain range in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Sister Islands ‘safe’ from mega-resorts

| 26/09/2014 | 0 Comments
CNS Business

View of Owen’s Island from Sunset Cove, Little Cayman

(CNS Business): Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell, who has responsibility for the Sister Islands, says the Cayman Islands’ new National Conservation Law adds significant protection from unsuitable or inappropriate developments. The DP also said he supports the establishment of a strategic development plan for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman to ensure that future developments on the two smaller Cayman Islands continue to align with the overarching economic, social, environmental and heritage objectives for the islands.

In light of reports from the Bahamas, where the construction of the 343-room Resorts World Bimini as well as a cruise dock on the tiny island of North Bimini has dismayed locals and environmentalists, Kirkconnell said that he considers that the current planning laws are robust enough to prevent unsuitable development in the Sister Islands.

A group of international conservation experts has expressed serious concern over the environmental impact of ongoing resort construction on and around the island of Bimini. The experts, hosted on a tour of Bimini by environmental advocacy group Save The Bays (STB), said they fear the work may destroy some of the most significant coral reefs in the region and put the island’s traditional industries at risk (see video below).

“The Bahamas are some of the most beautiful and wonderful places in the world,” said Marydele O’Donnely, director of international policy for the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC). “I’ve traveled extensively and I have been absolutely amazed by how the habitat looks here. But when I see developments like what is happening in North Bimini I am not only alarmed and concerned, but really saddened. Things have happened here that shouldn’t have happened.

“You can have development but you need to do it properly, and it hasn’t been done properly.”

Archie Carr III, also an STC director, called what he saw in Bimini “quite depressing” – particularly the impact of a massive seafloor dredging operation undertaken to make way for a 1,000 foot pier and cruise ship terminal, right at the heart of Bimini’s most valuable reefs and dive sites.

Carr said the operation resulted in “enormous siltation”, which locals say continues to blanket the surrounding sea floor and suffocate struggling marine life.
Many of the visitors were senior members of the global Waterkeeper Alliance, a leading NGO that coordinates more than 200 stewards of the marine environment, or Waterkeepers, who monitor and help safeguard rivers, bays, lakes and coastal areas around the world.

Noting the importance of Bimini marine environment, both ecologically and in economic terms, Rachel Silverstein, the Waterkeeper for Biscayne Bay, Florida said, “The development that’s going on here is threatening the livelihood of Bahamians who have businesses here that support the tourism industry.”

The developer, Resorts World Bimini, owned by Malaysian conglomerate Genting, has claimed its presence will boost the local economy, but Biminites have grown increasingly concerned that the property will end up monopolizing the tourism business.

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Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell, Minister of District Administration, Tourism and Transport

However, Cayman’s deputy premier is confident that a similar situation could not happen on the Sister Islands.

“Virtually all proposed development in the Cayman Islands requires planning permission which must be sought and gained prior to the commencement of the project. In the case of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, full details and plans pertaining to a proposed development must be submitted to the Development Control Board, which is chaired by Captain Ashton Bodden,” he explained. “The Board is tasked with reviewing the proposal and ensuring that the development complies with all the relevant planning laws and regulations.”

The deputy premier pointed to the recent passage of the National Conservation Law, which he said also acts as a safeguard and adds significant protection from unsuitable or inappropriate developments.

“Additionally, the review process includes the polling adjoining of landowners to seek their feedback on proposed projects. This ensures that due consideration is given to all relevant factors and views prior to a decision being taken,” Kirkconnell noted.

“For the future, I am supportive of the establishment of a strategic development plan that would address ‘big picture’ possibilities and ensure that future developments continue to align with the overarching economic, social, environmental and heritage objectives of the Sister Islands,” Kirkconnell added.

Long-time resident on Little Cayman and manager of Paradise Villas, Marc Pothier, commented, “Little Cayman is no place for a mega-resort.  We can’t even support visits from the smallest of cruise ships (and nor do we want to).

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A rock iguana sunbathes by the pool at Paradise Villas

“Business owners here and almost all of the residents (if not all) have been very vocal about being against such a project here.  Not enough lift, no necessary services, and no desire.  What stands out to me is that it looks like Big Business on Bimini has gone ahead with what would equate to the same thing happening here.  My heart goes out to the resident of Bimini who are against this project because the nasty effects of the dredging are already occurring and are irreversible.  The thought of a similar YouTube video being done about a similar project on Little Cayman sends chills down my spine.”

However, Pothier added, “I do have some faith in the fact that we have rules and regulations in place in the Cayman Islands with respect to the environment and with planning (for instance) which should prevent such a travesty from happening on our shores.  What alarms me is that I am willing to bet that the Bahamas have similar laws.”

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Category: Stay-over tourism, Tourism, Video

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