By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Democratic National Alliance’s (DNA) leader yesterday questioned if Baha Mar’s new owner had done proper ‘due diligence’ on its purchase, warning that it “hasn’t seen anything yet” in relation to the New Providence landfill.
Branville McCartney spoke out after Graeme Davis, head of Chow Tai Fook Enterprises’ (CTFE) Bahamian subsidiary, indicated he had been taken aback by the pollution and health hazards stemming from the landfill.
Mr Davis told a radio show on Monday that he “just recently noticed” the issues created by the landfill, and their potential impact on Baha Mar, whose initial ‘opening’ is just two months away.
Mr McCartney said any Baha Mar purchaser should have received ample warning about the potential risks posed to their potential investment, given that the 100-acre site’s unresolved issues have repeatedly attracted media coverages.
With marches having been held over the landfill’s health-related and environmental woes, the DNA leader said it was “a bit concerning” that the issue had failed to register with CTFE.
Mr McCartney even went so far as to suggest the matter might be “a deal breaker”, especially given that CTFE’s purchase of Baha Mar has yet to close, should the New Providence landfill’s problems not be resolved.
While there is no evidence to suggest CTFE would take such drastic action by ‘walking away’ from its Baha Mar purchase, the Government appears to have recognised that the landfill represents a major liability for the Bahamas, given its renewed talks with a local waste management consortium about taking over the site’s management.
“The dump has been a huge issue over the last few years, having been in the public domain with marches held over it,” Mr McCartney told Tribune Business.
“For it not to register [with CTFE] raises questions over their due diligence. That’s very concerning. It’s a foregone conclusion that it raises questions.
“We said that any new buyer, purchaser of this resort must take into consideration this dump. We said that when the bankruptcy debacle was going on. We said a new buyer must take this into account or they would be foolish to purchase this resort without ensuring the dump was first remediated.”
The DNA leader added that Baha Mar lay directly in the path of where the wind typically blew fumes and smoke emanating from the Tonique Williams Highway facility, especially when underground fires erupted.
He emphasised that regardless of who owned it, a high-end, multi-billion dollar tourism development such as Baha Mar could not expose its guests to such potential environmental and health hazards.
“This dump could be a deal breaker,” Mr McCartney added. “This Baha Mar president has not seen anything yet when this dump starts to burn.
“It’s not becoming of a multi-billion resort for its visitors and tourists to wake-up smelling the Nassau dump. Who wants to come to a resort to smell the dump?
“That resort [Baha Mar] is right in the direction of where the dump normally smells and flows. It’s right in that direction. It settles there.”
Mr McCartney told Tribune Business that the landfill was “starting to fire up” yet again, having personally smelled smoke every morning when he woke up at home over the weekend.
The DNA leader’s house, and his wife’s Meridian School, have both been directly impacted by the landfill in recent years, along with nearby communities in the Gladstone Road and Cable Beach areas.
“The landfill is starting to catch fire again,” Mr McCartney said. “Every morning I got up this weekend and I smelled smoke. It’s been like that for the last couple of weekends. It’s brewing again.
“Unfortunately, CTFE did not heed the call of buyer beware when we said that and put it out there. No resort of this magnitude will be sustained with the dump burning like that. None. They could kiss that resort goodbye if they do not sort out that dump.”
Tribune Business revealed yesterday that Prime Minister Perry Christie, recognising the dangers posed by the landfill if left unchecked, has met with members of the 10-strong Waste Resources Development Group (WRDG) at least twice in the past fortnight.
The all-Bahamian consortium, whose members include companies such as Wastenot, United Sanitation, BISX-listed Bahamas Waste and Impac, has been asked to come up with a business plan for taking over the landfill’s management, together with the necessary financing, “in an extremely short time”.
Mr McCartney said “the best person”, regardless of whether they were Bahamian, foreign or a joint venture between the two, was needed to remediate the landfill given how urgently this had to be achieved for multiple reasons.
“The Government, unless their backs are against the wall, will not do anything,” he told Tribune Business. “The Prime Minister would not be meeting with anybody regarding this dump unless they were in dire straits.”
He added: “We want the best person, whether Bahamian or otherwise, to sort it out. Who has the best solution?
“This is not rocket science; it’s something that can be dealt with. I wish that whoever can get the job gets it done, whether that’s Bahamian or otherwise.”
Mr McCartney slammed both the Christie administration and its FNM predecessor for failing to address the landfill’s long-standing deficiencies, which have been well-known to all stakeholders.
Recalling his time in the latter’s Cabinet, Mr McCartney said numerous private sector proposals from Bahamians, foreign entities and joint ventures between the two were submitted for the landfill’s management. However, none were acted upon.