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Minister to activists: Don’t deny us jobs

An aerial view of Little Harbour, Abaco

An aerial view of Little Harbour, Abaco

photo

Khaalis Rolle

A Cabinet Minister yesterday urged environmental activists to be “balanced and responsible” when launching legal actions against legitimate developers, warning that these could deny Bahamians much-needed “economic benefits”.

Khaalis Rolle, minister of state for investments, told Tribune Business that Judicial Review-type actions, such as the one launched against the Abaco Club’s proposed Little Harbour marina facility, threatened to impede job creation and economic development.

He called on the activists initiating these legal challenges, and those sponsoring them, to have more “consideration” for Bahamians impacted by delays to bona fide investment projects.

Emphasising that the Bahamas “does not have the luxury of not developing its economy”, Mr Rolle said developments such as the Little Harbour marina project created employment opportunities for young Bahamians who might otherwise turn to crime for a living.

“It’s a very big concern,” Mr Rolle said of the numerous legal challenges unleashed in recent years against a variety of major Bahamas-based development projects.

“We have to be a bit more balanced and a bit more responsible in how we approach these things,” he added.

“As much as the individuals pushing these Judicial Reviews call on developers to be responsible, they have to be equally responsible for the reasons they initiate these actions.”

Among the major foreign direct investment (FDI) projects subjected to Judicial Review challenges in recent years have been the Resorts World Bimini expansion (dredging activities); the $12 million Blackbeard’s Cay development; and efforts by multi-millionaire Canadian fashion designer, Peter Nygard, to develop his Nygard Cay home.

The Abaco Club’s 44-slip Little Harbour marina is the latest project to attract such scrutiny from local residents and activists alike, with the Judicial Review’s foundation set in claims that the Government failed to properly consult them on the project.

But Mr Rolle, who attended last Monday’s Cherokee Sound town meeting on the Little Harbour project, said audience feedback suggested the development’s economic benefits were superior to any environmental impact.

“In this case, if you look at the economic benefits to the Winding Bay (Abaco) Club, the Cherokee Sound community and the whole of south Abaco, versus the potential environmental impact, what I got from the town meeting was I believe the economic benefits outweigh the environmental issues,” the Minister told Tribune Business.

“What I would have been concerned about, had I heard it, would have been that the marina’s construction would contribute to environmental degradation, not improve it.

“You’re starting point cannot be that you’re saving Little Harbour, but are not saying what you’re saving it from. If you don’t want the streets paved, don’t want to have the pollution dealt with, you’re doing it at the expense of individuals that have the potential to be employed by this developer.”

Executives from the Abaco Club and its principal owner, Southworth Development, told last week’s Town Meeting that they would seek to obtain the prestigious ‘Blue Flag’ status for the Little Harbour marina (see other article on Page 1B).

They also disclosed that testing by the Water & Sewerage Corporation in February 2016 revealed that Little Harbour is “unswimmable”, due to the unsafe level of human waste contamination in its water.

Picking up this theme, Mr Rolle said yesterday: “Based on the feedback we got, there is no environmental management at [Little Harbour currently] at all, no provisions for pump out, and massive pollution taking place there now.”

The Minister called for the Bahamas to strike a better balance between economic development and environmental protection, and for activists committed to the latter cause to compromise and dialogue more frequently.

With the economy unable to grow fast enough to meet the job creation demands of an ever-expanding workforce, Mr Rolle implied that it was not in the national interest to obstruct legitimate investment projects.

“We are facing challenges nationally, and individuals with greater means have to be considerate of the actions they take on behalf of different groups,” he added.

“We have to be responsible. We only have one country, yet we continue to push this zero sum game where somebody wins and somebody loses.”

The Minister did not make clear who the “individuals with greater means were”, but most of the Judicial Reviews have been launched by the Save the Bays or Coalition to Save Clifton, either by themselves or on behalf of ‘sister’ environmental organisations.

Mr Rolle said projects such as the Abaco Club, and its Little Harbour project, were vital to reducing the Bahamas’ 30 per cent youth unemployment rate, and providing jobs for those who will never go to college. Without gainful employment, he suggested some young Bahamians would be tempted into a life of crime.

“A lady at the town meeting said to me that a number of kids are coming out of school and will never go to college,” Mr Rolle told Tribune Business. “If they do not get a job at the Abaco Club or somewhere else, they’ll potentially become our worst nightmare.

“When they file these Judicial Reviews, they have to consider the people impacted by this. Unfortunately, the Bahamas does not have the luxury of not developing the economy.

“We have no magic lamp we can rub so that the genie comes out and makes it happen. That’s not just at Little Harbour, but throughout this country.”

Calling for compromise and dialogue to address environmental concerns related to major development projects, Mr Rolle also urged Bahamians to trust the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) Commission to protect their interests.

Praising the professional and technical capabilities of BEST Commission employees, Mr Rolle said it frequently employed outside consultants, such as Black & Veatch, to assist its work.

However, BEST has no statutory basis in law, and it can only advise the Government - not insist that its recommendations be implemented.

Comments

banker 6 years, 4 months ago

Another blind Cabinet minister bought and sold in the pockets of cronies. Sighhhh.

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Economist 6 years, 4 months ago

NO COURT ACTIONS would have occurred IF THE GOVERNMENT had FOLLOWED THE LAW.

The blame lies squarely at the feet of the government.

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Guy 6 years, 4 months ago

Judicial reviews come as a result of the Govt not following the law. How can this Minister have the unmitigated gall to place blame for any job losses as a result of any illegal project approvals at the feet of those petitioning the courts for justice? These whackos really think they are above the law! This is shameful but oh so common from these power hungry nutcases!

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SP 6 years, 4 months ago

.......................................... Too many Haitians in HOA! .........................................

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BMW 6 years, 4 months ago

INCREDIBLE, Obie says we are to blame for crime this clown says environmental activists costing jobs what a crock of dog s^&!! They are all about what they can get from developers, Little Harbour has history let the developer find some place else to develop. This plp is costing the country dearly! Thanks for the downgrade, pretty boy says they know what needs to be done to grow the economy. Hello its been 4 years and you all cant get it right. We need to power BEC or BPL with bullshit cause plenty in the HOA

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birdiestrachan 6 years, 4 months ago

They should take note from the outspoken QC wrong is right only when the QC does it.

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ThisIsOurs 6 years, 4 months ago

This man has no vision. One harbour development is not worth the death of a reef or killing of mangroves. Creating jobs does not equate to destroying our environment. What happened to this great ICT industry that you were going to create? Do something about that. Pay people to learn and build.

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MonkeeDoo 6 years, 4 months ago

Yes just go along with it because idiots just killed the BIGGEST hotel employer there ever was. BAHA MAR ! Shame on you all.

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juju 6 years, 4 months ago

Find another location nearby to the South, and everyone will be happy. Duck Cay is perfect and Cherokee will have more jobs Rolle. If that's all that matters to you.

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alleycat 6 years, 4 months ago

Check out Fred Smith's reply to Rolle at http://www.tribune242.com/news/2016/j...">http://www.tribune242.com/news/2016/j... At the Cherokee meeting last week, Southworth said the marina would generate 1000 construction jobs at Winding Bay. WHAT??? 2010 Census shows the population of Abaco at 17,224, man, woman and child. So he's going to hire 1 out of every 17 people on Abaco? And build what, 100 houses all at the same time? In his dreams! The EIA said there would be "a maximum of 2 jobs" created by the marina. Big difference!

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alleycat 6 years, 4 months ago

This is photo they SHOULD have with this article - this is how the marina would look, and yes, THIS IS TO SCALE! The yellow dots are moorings. The existing docks in the area are 100 ft long. The marina dock is 270 ft long, 320 ft wide. Two acres of dock in an 11 acre harbour.

http://tribune242.com/users/photos/20...">http://thetribune.media.clients.ellin..." alt="None">

by alleycat

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Brookebee 6 years, 4 months ago

Has anyone tried to reach out to Sylvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue. She or her organization could posibaly get little harbour and the surrounding reefs changed to a protected status, "hope spot". She has been succesful in orher countries. Maybe its worth a try.

Please do not monopolize little harbour, go somewhere else, or use the money to create a marina in winding bay its self. Little harbour is to "little" and its speacial the way it is. Its going to obliterate the surrounding environment. If its jobs that are the issue then be a good government and figure out how to create jobs without trashing an eco friendly community and trashing the environment. It going to turn into death harbour.

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The_Oracle 6 years, 4 months ago

A simple apologist for Idiots. There is no pollution created in Little harbor, The long time residents wouldn't S%#T in their own front yard as most M.P.'s would and do. The issue is once they've "massaged" the developers Wallets they're stuck holding the bag and the Developer holds them to promises made.

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alleycat 6 years, 4 months ago

In reply to BROOKBEE's comment - the surrounding area is already protected - we have the East Abaco Creeks Park right outside the harbour entrance, and the Pelican Cays Park a mile to the north. Also, the Johnstons have, for decades, protected the turtles in the harbour, the reef off North Beach, and the tropic bird nesting area at the harbour entrance. All this is would be under threat from this PRIVATE marina. Jet skis, oil spills, lights on all night - I can't wait!

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Carolinaboy 6 years, 4 months ago

Of course those moored boats pump out their waste. I hate to see development as much as anyone, I'll admit that bias, but the fact here is that people want little harbor to stay the same forever. What does the science show?

Is there actual science supporting the need to forgo thus development? Every single project does face resistance. If we had a functional process for permitting and EIA then we would not have to revisit this every time there is a new development or expansion.

The Bahamas can't just be for the rich that want nice views and no additional development. Nor can we destroy our national treasures. We have to take the middle way, and if the proposed marina is accurately represented in the above photo, and they intend to add waste management for sewerage, then this could be a net improvement. We have an embarrassing lack of pump out facilities throughout the archipelago. In NC, state funding helped install many of these sites and pumpouts are $5 most places. It perfect,,but it works. In FL they are ruthless about pumpout, west coast US too. They will chase down boats, board, and flush dye down the head and issue citations for anyone who is pumping overboard.

Who really thinks these boaters are pumping out properly? Where? I could be wrong but from my experience, boaters and shoreside development are having a real impact on water quality.

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