The National Conservation Council has questioned the role of the Ministry of Tourism in pushing for the cruise pier project.
In a pair of public statements Friday the council suggested that the ministry was now acting as both “investigator and adjudicator” of the project.
Saying the ministry had assumed the roles intended for the Project Steering Group and the Environmental Assessment Board as well as advocating for cruise piers, the council suggested it risked creating a conflict of interest.
“Not only should no man be a judge in his own cause, but with a proposal such as that with which the Cayman Islands are now faced, where the government is cast not only in the role of evaluator but also as a joint proponent in a proposed public-private partnership, the question of impaired objectivity must be raised,” the council wrote.
The council took issue with the ministry’s decision to release a preliminary report on possible mitigation measures for the port project, saying it was an incomplete draft that omitted supporting analysis and involved no consultation with the Department of Environment.
It suggested that the ministry had taken over some functions, including the release of environmental reports, that were intended for other bodies.
“The commitment to proper procedure in the evaluation of the Cruise Berthing Facility proposal began with the appointment of a Steering Group and an Environmental Assessment Board (made up of the Department of Environment, National Roads Authority, Department of Tourism, Department of Planning, National Museum and the Port Authority).
“It is the council’s view that if the role of the Ministry of Tourism is to act as the Government proponent, then, in order to counter the reasonable apprehension of bias created by a party acting as both investigator and adjudicator, it is important that the Ministry should not, and be seen not to, interfere with or pre-empt the evaluation function of the Environmental Assessment Board.”
The council welcomed recent statements from government that the proposed layout of the cruise piers would be re-evaluated, with a view to moving the structures to deeper water.
But it said this process should be led by the Environmental Assessment Board and not the ministry. It also suggested that the process may have to update parts of the Environmental Impact Assessment.
The mitigation measures, outlined in the preliminary report, including some coral relocation, do not adequately offset the environmental damage, the council argues. It suggests the measures outlined do not measure up to international standards for offsetting risks to the natural environment and that the new layout should seek to achieve “no net loss” to the wider ecosystem.