Cabinet Minister Charles Clifford is disappointed his government didn’t pass the National Conservation Bill, but has pledged to finally pass the law if re-elected in May.
“There were additional concerns that were raised in relation to that bill,” he said at a Cabinet press briefing last week. “From the Government’s point of view it would make sense now, given where we are in the legislative process, to consider those additional concerns,” he explained.
Mr. Clifford had previously insisted the bill would be tabled before the house was dissolved. While the bill was brought before Cabinet on Tuesday, 17 March, it never made it to the LA.
‘I look forward to returning after the 20th of May [because] we believe the people have confidence in this government, that we will be returned and we can move this bill through the process to become legislation,’ Mr. Clifford said.
He suggested a new government will look to pass the bill between June and August, after they have prepared a budget.
The long-mooted bill seeks to change how Cayman designates and protects environmentally sensitive areas, how protected species of wildlife are designated and protected, and regulatory practices for controlling non-indigenous forms of plants and underwater life.
The original draft proposal for the National Conservation Bill came before the Legislative Assembly in 2002.
The Cayman Islands Real Estate Broker’s Association has criticised the conservation plan, claiming it will give unelected civil servants the power to restrict development – a charge Department of Environment officials have categorically denied.
On Thursday, Mr. Clifford also dismissed claims the bill will stop people from being able to develop their land.
“That is absolutely incorrect,” he said. “I don’t know whether that is simply a deliberate attempt to undermine the provisions in the bill or whether it is a misunderstanding.”
But he added ‘there is a need for us to have additional dialogue to make sure those concerns are addressed.’
Mr. Clifford liked the legislation to the Marine Conservation Law, which was initially unpopular in some quarters. “Even people that would have objected to it at that time … are some of the primary promoters of that legislation today, because they have seen the benefit of it’ he said.
Significant public consultations have shown the proposal is especially popular among Cayman’s youth, he said.
“They have been studying it, they have given input on it, and that certainly bodes well for the country.”