The Conservation Council wishes to correct the factual errors contained in the editorial entitled “Port Politics: “The Council” comes to life” appearing in the Cayman Compass of 24th November.
1. Compass Statement: Two years later, the Council has been rather short on actual results
Conservation Council Correction: Whilst the National Conservation Law was passed in the Legislative Assembly in December 2013 the first commencement order did not occur until 12 September 2014. The National Conservation Council was appointed by Cabinet at that latter date and therefore has only been constituted for a little over one year.
2. Compass Statement: for example, designating protected areas to conserve protected species, or funding significant projects from the $50 million-or-so Environmental Protection Fund (outside of its allocation of $200,000 for, of all things, green iguana eradication efforts).
Conservation Council Correction: Invasive species pose a grave threat to the biodiversity of the Islands. The green iguana is a grave threat and a committee of the Council is now tasked with running a pilot project towards control and possible eradication of this threat. Appropriations from the Environmental Protection Fund remain with the Cabinet, under existing 1997 legislation.
3. Compass Statement: Remember that the 13-member Council includes five civil servants, including Director of Environment Gina Ebanks-Petrie, setting up a conflict between the civil service and the elected government.
Conservation Council Correction: For the avoidance of any conflict with their duty as civil servants, Government members of the Council did not participate in the drafting of the statements.
Conservation Council Correction: The composition of Council reflects section 3 and Schedule 2 of the Law. The civil servant members of the Council are four only: the Director or his nominee from the Department of the Environment; (b) the Deputy Director of Research in the Department of the Environment; (c) the Director of the Department of Agriculture or his nominee from the Department of Agriculture; and (d) the Director of Planning or his nominee from the Department of Planning. The other nine members are all appointed by Cabinet, including the nominee of the National Trust (a non-governmental organization). The members are required by law to be able to contribute technical and scientific expertise and/or district representation. The non-voting secretary to the Council is a member of DoE staff appointed pursuant to the DoE’s functions under the Law.
4. Compass Statement: The Council has, however, found time to inject itself into government’s evaluation process for cruise berthing, raising objections that appear designed to delay the project, perhaps to death. On Monday, we reported that the Council is finding fault with the Ministry of Tourism’s leadership of the project and is protesting the usurpation of the role of the Environmental Assessment Board, which includes two departmental representatives who also happen to serve on the Council.
Conservation Council Correction: The overarching function of the Conservation Council is to promote biological diversity and the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. The recent statements by the Council in relation to adherence to performance standards and good governance for assessment and conduct of the environmentally-sensitive infrastructure proposal for a cruise berthing facility were issued because, in the Council’s view, it is in the public interest that such standards are followed and further the environmental assessment should continue to be managed by the Environmental Assessment Board that was formed for such purpose.
5. Compass Statement: The Council’s action against the media is, of course, ludicrous — and has nothing to do with ensuring the “privacy” of people who are attending a public meeting in a public space with the opportunity of influencing public policy, and has everything to do with “control” over what journalists (not just the Compass) are able to report or photograph about the Council’s doings to the wider public at large.
Conservation Council Correction: The Conservation Council takes its duty to hold meetings in a public place very seriously. Not only does it publish the agendas and minutes of its meetings as required by the Law but the Council has adopted the policy of publishing the working papers for the subject matter of each agenda as well.
M. Christine Rose-Smyth, Chair, National Conservation Council