Signs protesting against possible plans for Egg Island, as posted to a Facebook page calling for a petition against Disney’s mooted development.
By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Perry Christie has responded to public outcry over a proposed development on Egg Island, Eleuthera, contending that his administration has not signed any deal to construct a private cruise port there.
Mr Christie on Monday, speaking as a guest on the “Ed Fields Live” talk show on KISS FM, stressed that his administration has only held “preliminary” talks with both Disney Cruise Line and local administrators in Eleuthera, with all sides agreeing that impact assessment studies must come first.
He said while he understands the initial shock and panic over the proposal which has been made public, residents in Eleuthera can rest assured that his Cabinet would not sign off on any plan without the relevant assessments being done.
“The government never makes a decision, a final decision without making it totally subject to environmental (studies),” he stated. “Therefore the government is committed to having these environmental impact assessments done. And the case of Egg Island, there is no difference to that.”
A petition recently surfaced online calling for the rejection of the development.
The “Stop Disney from purchasing Egg Island” petition, spearheaded by Spanish Wells resident Holly Peel now boasts some 1,337 signatures.
The petition highlights the island’s importance to the livelihood of residents and the ecosystem of the surrounding islands.
Mrs Peel told The Tribune that to date, there has been no communication from government officials with the local community on the matter.
Despite this, she said equipment belonging to Disney has already been shipped into The Bahamas and transported to Egg Island allegedly to start dredging operations on the southeastern side of the island.
However, Mr Christie said that communication and consultation is underway. He indicated that there are several groups throughout Eleuthera raising different issues, who are all urging the government to support their positions.
As a result, Mr Christie said his administration would widen its consultation base to better catalogue the opinions of residents on the matter.
“Governments have to consult and we have seen enough of these developments that go to court to know that (it has become) a very important part of the process of approving a development,” he said.
The proposed Egg Island development has also incited a broader debate over the division of powers between central and local governmental agencies.
Mr Christie indicated that it was his goal to include more local officials in dialogue focused on developing their individual islands as long as those officials “see the bigger picture”.
Mr Christie said the “preponderance” of decisions made at the local government level are made through decisions “peculiar to that island.”
He continued: “We have people who are elected from that island who would have the responsibility of feeding into decision making for islands, but at the same time decision making for the entire Bahamas.
“… But we need somebody else who would say that we should put this in Inagua, or we should put this in Abaco and we should put this in Ragged Island and the central government does that.
“Let’s put it this way, I think that is the way of the future but you have to be careful because the central government has the responsibility for the whole country and the central government has the responsibility of determining what works for the entire country. And this is where the national plan comes into play. If you talk about local government in Spanish Wells, local government of even Eleuthera, you have a situation where that is all they are thinking about.”
“Whereas, (at the central government level) we have to be able to put into perspective all of the development plans for the county and so, there is a role for local government but I am saying that you cannot, the central government cannot surrender its role with respect to the power of the Office of the Prime Minister. We have so many layers in government.
“The prime minister only gets involved when developers start to say, (issues are progressing at a slow pace) and the ultimate appeal is to the Office of the Prime Minister, for him to sit there for a few minutes to hear what the challenges are and to be able to call everyone around the table and to be able to say ‘why hasn’t this happened.’”
A signed petition is expected to be presented to the Office of the Prime Minister in the coming days.
Egg Island currently serves as a leisure cay for residents of North and Central Eleuthera.