A revised form of the long-awaited National Conservation Law is likely to be presented to the Legislative Assembly during this financial year, the minister responsible for environment said Monday.
Mark Scotland, minister of Health, Environment, Youth, Sports and Culture, said he and the United Democratic Party caucus were still scrutinising the bill, which was drafted last year after widespread public consultation.
He said he had not been involved from the inception of the bill and was not yet comfortable with the draft.
“I’ve still yet to come to a point where I am satisfied that what we are bringing brings that balance of protection and conservation, along with the ability to continue on developing, which is what our economy is based on,” he said.
The bill will be presented to legislators during the 2011/2012 financial year, Minister Scotland said.
Mr. Scotland was speaking to reporters following an event celebrating 25 years of the establishment of marine parks in the Cayman Islands.
“We put the draft law out for consultation process and received numerous feedback and… [we] are still reviewing the consultation; it was a mixed bag of feedback,” he said.
There was no mention of the National Conservation Bill in the Throne Speech delivered by Governor Duncan Taylor in the Legislative Assembly on Monday morning. The speech included a summary of what each ministry and portfolio of government plans to do in the coming fiscal year, as well as a list of legislation that would be brought before lawmakers.
“I have… input from both sides of the spectrum on the Conservation Law,” Mr. Scotland said. “It’s for me to absorb that and look at the legal implications of what’s in the draft law and come up with something that I am satisfied addresses the concerns of the preservation of the terrestrial and marine environments, along with the balance that we need to continue to grow the economy.”
He said some sectors of the community considered the law to be “draconian or drastic” – more so than the legislation that protects the marine environment, the Marine Conservation Law, which was passed in 1979 after some opposition.
The Marine Parks Law was enacted in 1986, creating four types of environmental zone designations – marine park zones, replenishment zones, environmental zones and no diving zones.
“I have gone through the drafting [of the National Conservation Law] in great detail, gotten input from all the different private sectors and others,” Minister Scotland said, adding that meetings were still be held to discuss it.
He said those examining the bill were considering whether to take parts of it that specifically protect the terrestrial environment, rather than the marine environment, which he said was covered by the Marine Conservation Law.
“I would not say [we’re] rewriting it, but at least taking the relevant and pertinent parts out of it to create the necessary protection that we need,” he said.
Last year, the Department of Environment held seven district meetings throughout the Cayman Islands, and gave numerous briefings to members of the business community, the media, government officials and others about the proposed law.
The public consultation period for the draft bill was extended last year to give people more time to comment on it. That was the second round of public consultations the bill had undergone.
It had been slated to be put before the Legislative Assembly before the May 2009 election but that did not happen.
The bill was drafted in 2002 and has undergone a number of revised drafts since then.
Currently, the only legislation protecting any of Cayman’s lands is the Animals Law of 1976. It preserves small areas in which endangered animal species live. There is no law to protect the islands’ native plant species.