Five months after the general election, Cayman’s National Conservation Council says it is struggling, in vain, to get a meeting with the new minister for the environment.
Amid concern over potential revisions to the landmark conservation law and a host of other pressing issues, its chair Christine Rose-Smyth has been seeking an audience with Environment Minister Dwayne Seymour since shortly after the May 24 election.
The need for a frank conversation with government became more urgent when Premier Alden McLaughlin described elements of the law as “ridiculous” and confirmed in his strategic policy statement in August that the new coalition would move swiftly to amend it.
According to Ms. Rose-Smyth, requests for clarification of the premier’s comments and more general ongoing requests for a meeting with the minister have yet to receive a reply.
She said the council could not address or respond to any concerns about the conservation law, without knowing more about what those concerns were.
Mr. Seymour, in response to questions from the Compass, acknowledged he had not yet met with the council but said he planned to do so at the “earliest opportunity.”
Separate inquiries from the council about the Environmental Protection Fund have also gone unanswered, Ms. Rose-Smyth said during a meeting of the council on Wednesday.
Legislation giving the council management authority over disbursements from the fund has yet to be enacted.
There was more bad news for the council, Wednesday, as Gina Ebanks-Petrie, director of the Department of Environment updated members on the likely budget allocations for key projects over the next two years.
She said the department had requested $6 million per year for the next two years from the Environmental Protection Fund to go toward the purchase of land for protected areas, but had been told they were likely to get nothing.
In the previous budget, $6 million was allocated for such purchases, and the council is in the process of establishing Cayman’s first terrestrial protected areas.
Without further funds, projects like the planned National Park at Barkers peninsula in West Bay, are much less likely to materialize.
Ms. Ebanks-Petrie said some funding would likely be allocated from the fund for a new cull of invasive green iguanas, but that allocation was expected to be half of what the Department of Environment had requested. She did not reveal figures.
The government’s budget will be announced next Friday.
Mr. Seymour told the Compass he had many conflicting priorities to attend to and was still in the process of touring each department and entity that falls within his large ministry, covering health, environment, culture and housing.
He said, “I assure each department and entity, including the National Conservation Council, that I consider their work to be extremely important and I am anxious to hear about their issues and concerns. I appreciate that there is a number of matters to be dealt with, so I ask for understanding and patience as I turn my attentions to each matter as quickly as possible.”