Editorial for June 28: The National Conversation Bill

Once
again, the Department of Environment will make a big push to see Cayman’s
National Conservation Bill passed.

Once
again, a government says it’s keen to see that vital legislation passed.

Once
again, there will be a round of public consultation to get feedback and refute
the misunderstandings of the controversial bill.

Talk
about déjà vu all over again.

Despite
the tremendous need to have laws to protect Cayman’s lands, fauna and flora,
successive governments seem to do is talk about the bill, which was first
drafted in 2002. It really should be called the National Conversation Bill
instead of the National Conservation Bill.

We
have little optimism the Bill can get passed in its present form.  This government needs a great deal of
development to take place if it is going to balance its budget; it’s not likely
to saddle itself with law that will in any way hinder its plans.  For instance, the National Conservation Bill
aims to protect the Mastic Trail, but as we reported last year, the East-West
Arterial Highway is already slated to pass through the trail.  The extension of the East-West Arterial is
vital to several of the government’s planned projects. It’s possible the road
could be moved, but that takes time, a luxury the government does not have.

The
many obstacles, however, do not mean the National Conservation Bill has to
continue to languish.  Some form of the
law – maybe with some of the controversial aspects removed – can be passed
now.  The battle for the more comprehensive
provisions can always take place later, and at least the framework for any
amendments to the law would already be in place.

We
understand the Department of Environment’s need to be comprehensive in its
attempt to see a National Conservation Law passed. However, the controversial
aspects of the law have prevented any aspects – even those on which almost all
agree – from getting passed.  It’s time
to move the National Conservation Bill past conversation any way possible.