There are “no shortcuts” to get the Cayman Islands long-standing landfill issues dealt with, Minister Osbourne Bodden insisted on Monday as he rounded on critics of government’s response to the problem.
The minister outlined a more ambitious timeline for the construction of new landfill facilities than the five-year forecast contained in a strategic outline case published last month, suggesting the job could be done by mid 2017.
But he insisted the process required by the Fiscal Framework for Responsibility would take time to complete and suggested those calling for a speedier solution, including this newspaper, had an ulterior motive.
Speaking in the Legislative Assembly on Monday, the minister said the next step was to produce a business case, similar to the one done for the cruise piers and in the works for the airport development.
“That is what is required. This is not Ozzie’s rules, these are rules laid down by the FFR (Framework for Fiscal Responsibility) which we have all come to understand and accept we can’t avoid having to comply with.”
He added, “Every time I get up to speak on this, I must speak Spanish, Italian or Greek because no matter how much I say it, tons of people don’t seem to get it. This is the way the process calls for. We are moving as quickly as God gives us strength and it is going to get done.”
He reiterated his commitment to keep the landfill site in George Town, possibly including a waste-to-energy facility and a lined landfill, saying the alternative offered by the Dart group in the Bodden Town district would have done little to deal with the underlying issue.
“All they were going to do is dig two holes up in Midland Acres and drop two liners in it and walk away, then we were going to build another Mount Something Else in Bodden Town – that does not make good sense.”
He said a national waste management policy, which is currently being produced, was essential and solutions to the other issues would flow from there.
He defended the $4 million investment over the next two years in various studies to comply with Framework for Fiscal Responsibility and to produce the various plans and policy documents that will underpin the development.
“We are taking unnecessary licks from people saying ‘just get on with it.’ We have seen the results in the past when you rush or do these things for the wrong reasons. You end up paying more in the end. Yes, it costs money to get a plan but I prefer we get this right this time around.”
Deputy Governor Franz Manderson earlier offered his support to the government, suggesting it was getting unfairly criticized for following the proper process on projects like the port and waste management facilities.
He said, “It’s really the first time that I have seen in a long time where the government is being criticized for following established best practice. People are saying the government should just get on with it. I don’t agree with that.
“Government is following a process, following what is set out in the FFR. We have made significant [progress] in developing the strategic outline cases for the airport, seaport and the waste management facility. It has been a text book example of civil servants and elected leaders working together and, yes, it’s going to cost money.
“But money that we spend at the beginning of the process is going to save us spending it at the end if we get it wrong. Too often we have seen where things were started off badly and, of course, ended badly.”
The final solution will involve government partnering with a private sector firm that will likely recoup its costs through tipping fees.
Mr. Bodden said there could also be changes to garbage collection, suggesting that could be privatized. He said many businesses were already going to the private sector for those services.
He added that government had invested in new collection trucks to improve services but suggested those could be sold to private firms if the service is privatized.
Further investment has been made in six new “fire wells” and a “fire fighting pump” at the landfill site.
He said other equipment, including compactors which were reaching the end of their useful life potentially adding to the threat of fires, had to be replaced.
“When you don’t have proper management of landfill you are flirting with disaster,” he said, insisting things were much better than they were, though “still not ideal.”