By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Environmental activists were yesterday “thrilled” and “euphoric” after the Supreme Court ruled that the Government had failed to follow statutory processes in approving the $8 million Blackbeard’s Cay project.
Sam Duncombe, founder of the non-profit environmental watch group, reEarth, speaking to Tribune Business after Justice Stephen Isaacs quashed the Premises License and Site Plan Approval that had been granted to the project’s developers, Blue Illusions, said: “We are thrilled to put it mildly.
“We are euphoric. This is a fantastic day. It’s a first for our country in terms of recognising that the Government cannot do whatever it wishes with their own laws, which they must also abide by.
“I’m hoping that this sends a very strong message to any other developer that wants to come here to do a dolphin facility; they will meet very strong opposition to, so they should cancel that idea.”
ReEarth had brought a Judicial Review application against Blue Illusions, headed by St Marteen businessman Samir Andrawos; the Town Planning Committee; Fisheries and Marine Resources Director, Michael Braynen; Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister, V Alfred Gray; and Minister responsible for Crown Land, Prime Minister Perry Christie.
It challenged the permits that allowed the attraction, located off New Providence’s coast opposite Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort & Spa, to import eight dolphins into the Bahamas.
The group had also asked the court to quash any other approvals granted by the Government related to Crown Land leases, Site Plan Approvals, and to halt any development of the land that was currently taking place.
Justice Isaacs noted in his judgment that while the minister had the authority to issue an import license to the developer, the decision to do so was “clearly premature”. The judge also noted that based on the documents disclosed and evidence submitted, the Town Planning Committee had never contemplated a public hearing over the development.
Ms Duncombe said: “This is an issue that reEarth has been fighting for 24 years. It’s the first time that we have been able to take the Government to court over it and the court has seen fit to rule in our favour.
“This is beyond the laws on the books; this is a moral and ethical issue which as a country we need to start thinking about.”