McTaggart, Connolly favor conservation law
The Coalition for Cayman has called on lawmakers to put the National Conservation Bill on hold – a position that directly contradicts the stated support for the bill from all three independent legislators who were elected with the group’s backing.
Roy McTaggart, Winston Connolly and Tara Rivers have each indicated they will vote in favor of the bill when it goes to the Legislative Assembly this week.
The C4C, which provided financial and logistical support for all three candidates in the May general election, warned that the bill has “serious inherent flaws” and was being pushed through without reference to any clear over-arching policy on environmental and sustainable development.
“We urge our government to put the current bill on hold and prepare a national development and infrastructure plan which includes our conservation aims and the needs of a growing population, including the related infrastructure requirements. The bill can then be revised in the light of these requirements,” the advocacy group said in a statement published in full on page 5 of today’s Caymanian Compass.
The statement highlights specific concerns with the bill, including a perceived threat to private property rights, “out of proportion” fines of $500,000 for “any and all offences” and the creation of an “unnecessary” new tier of government that concentrates too much power in the hands of unelected officials.
Those views don’t appear to have had much impact on the three elected candidates the C4C backed.
Mr. McTaggart reaffirmed his support for the bill Monday, and Mr. Connolly and Ms Rivers both told the Compass they were in favor.
Mr. Connolly said he would like to see “full environmental legislation” dealing with landfills, recycling and waste management, as well as protected species and habitats.
But, he added, “I support the government in moving this bill forward as a step in the right direction.”
Ms Rivers said she respects C4C’s right to express its concerns as an “advocacy group,” but she supports protection of Cayman’s endemic species.
Asked if she would vote for the bill, she said, “I am a member of the government and Cabinet that brought the bill forward.”
JC Calhoun of the C4C said it had endorsed the candidates on the basis that they shared similar principles but did not expect them to agree on every position.
“We are not a party, we are an advocacy group. The candidates have to make their own decisions. We don’t necessarily expect everyone to agree.”
Government would appear to have sufficient numbers to push the bill through the Legislative Assembly, despite voices of opposition, principally from landowners who fear it could be used in conjunction with the Compulsory Acquisition Law to compel them to sell their land to government for conservation purposes.
Environment Minister Wayne Panton has said the bill contains no provision that would allow that to happen, though he stated his belief that the Compulsory Acquisition Law could already be used for this purpose.
The C4C in its statement Monday argued that a clear long-term policy on national development and infrastructure should be produced and brought to the Legislative Assembly along with a revised version of the bill in 12 months.
The group called on government to craft a policy detailing how the needs of Cayman’s growing population could be balanced with conservation aims and green policies, including recycling and stopping the dump from “leaching into North Sound.”
The statement says, “There is no resistance to a conservation law but there is real resistance to the drafts that have been put forward in isolation with serious inherent flaws and without any direction from the elected government on its environmental and sustainable development policy …
“The worst option in our view would be to try to ram through a Conservation Law which may result in unintended consequences that create more problems than solutions. This is one instance where getting it done right is more important than just getting it done.”