The Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday urged lawmakers to consider a three-month delay of the National Conservation Bill to give the organization, and the public, more time to weigh the proposal.
Outgoing Chamber President Chris Duggan said the Chamber is not against the bill. He said group members simply do not know enough about it at this point to support or oppose it.
“A delay of a further three months is certainly not material,” Mr. Duggan said. “It won’t kill the bill.”
At press time, the Legislative Assembly was expected to take up the proposal when members resume meeting Wednesday morning. It appears, based on Caymanian Compass discussions with lawmakers, that government, if it moves forward, would have the necessary votes to pass the legislation.
Mr. Duggan said the Chamber sent a list of “scenarios” to Environment Minister Wayne Panton last week, asking what the process would be for certain fictional development applications if they were presented to the National Conservation Council that would be created under the bill, and if they were to undergo the environmental impact process described in the proposed legislation.
He said the Chamber had not received a response yet, but indicated that Mr. Panton pledged to respond to the Chamber’s questions.
“I think everyone is for a National Conservation Law of some sort,” Mr. Duggan said. “We need something that balances the need to protect the native flora and fauna, while at the same time allowing for sustainable economic development that will benefit all the people of the Cayman Islands.
“We want to ensure, also, that the bill isn’t going to prevent developments in the islands that would stifle the economy,” he said.
In addition to the three-month delay, the Chamber advised that after the waiting period, lawmakers should set a “hard and fast date” for when the bill will be reintroduced before the assembly.
“Not everyone is going to be in agreement with whatever gets passed,” Mr. Duggan said. “But there’s merit in delaying this a little longer.
“Once we get clarity on the issues we’ve raised [with Mr. Panton], the Chamber may well come out in full support.”
Echoing concerns raised by Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush, Mr. Duggan wondered why – after a process of more than 10 years of debate – the government would be concerned about waiting another few months before voting on the National Conservation Bill.
While he agreed there had been an inordinate amount of time spent on debating the legislation over the years, Mr. Duggan noted that this particular version of the legislation was just introduced in mid-November and set for a vote less than a month later.
“In its current form, it’s going through fairly quickly,” he said.