Members of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands voted unanimously on Thursday to officially oppose the construction of a cruise berthing facility in George Town. Previously, the Trust had held a neutral position on the project.
The proposed $200 million government plan involves the development of two piers that will be able to accommodate mega cruise ships. It will also include renovations to the current cargo port facilities. The project was put on hold pending an upcoming people-initiated referendum for Cayman voters to choose whether the port development should go ahead. The referendum, originally scheduled for 19 Dec. 2019, was postponed after legal proceedings were lodged to delay it.
In December, the National Trust and Shirley Roulstone, a member of the campaign group Cayman Port Referendum, which initiated the referendum petition effort, brought to the court separate applications for leave to appeal for judicial review of the government’s decision to hold the referendum before an updated environmental impact assessment is completed, among other concerns.
On Thursday evening, the National Trust held an extraordinary general meeting, its first since it came into operation 33 years ago. During the meeting at the George Town Yacht Club, members were asked to vote on whether they opposed the cruise berthing project.
In a statement about the meeting and its outcome, the organisation said, “The National Trust has consistently called for full disclosure on the potential environmental impacts of the Cruise Port project, as well as for meaningful consultation with the public since the new design changes, so as to allow voters to make an informed decision when voting at the People-Initiated Referendum.
“The National Trust had previously taken a neutral stance on the project until such time as additional information was provided, but with information not forthcoming, the lack of meaningful consultation, the National Trust decided it had to call an EGM to solicit the feedback of its membership and take a position.”
After a presentation by wildlife and marine photographer Ellen Cuylaerts, the National Trust’s legal counsel John Harris and executive director Nadia Hardie provided an update on the organisation’s legal position on the upcoming judicial review, which is set to be heard on 22 Jan.
The meeting, which was closed to non-members, was “well attended” and included the submission of more than 65 proxies, according to the Trust.
A unanimous resolution was passed to “formally oppose any development of a Cruise Berthing Port in George Town Harbour which would jeopardise its endangered and protected species of coral and marine life and which would be inconsistent with the provisions of section 41 of the National Conservation Law”, the Trust statement noted.
It continued, “The National Trust is determined to carry out its mandate to protect and preserve the historic, natural and maritime heritage of the Islands as defined in Section 4 of the National Trust Law.
“It also wants to remind the public of the Constitution Order 2009 which states the Cayman Islands ‘will be a country that respects, protects and defends its environment and natural resources as the basis of its existence’ and ‘a Country that manages growth and maintains prosperity while protecting its social and natural environment.’”
The National Trust, a non-governmental organisation, is subsidised by the government.