By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
South Abaco’s MP yesterday said concerns over whether there is sufficient housing for a $300m development’s 600-strong workforce represents “a chicken and egg” situation.
James Albury, speaking to Tribune Business following the Heads of Agreement signing for the Tyrsoz Family Holdings resort and marina project, acknowledged the questions over whether Abaco and the wider Bahamas can provide sufficient manpower for the construction.
He said: “This is one of those situations that’s a chicken and egg situation. You have a lot of people who want to move home and who want to move to Abaco, but especially now can’t find gainful employment.
“Of course housing is always going to be a concern, but as that project rolls forward hopefully it is going to create that demand for not only housing but also persons who are looking to move back. So that’s what I mean when I said it’s a chicken and egg situation. Which one has to come first: The labour force or the jobs?
“As far as I know in terms of the plan they are going to be building employee housing. So there will be actual living accommodations on-site for those personnel who will be able to live there and run the essential day-to-day activities.”
Mr Albury added that the developer and its principal, Ronnie Ben-Zur, have “done their homework” in terms of mitigating any environmental impact to the South Abaco National Park. He added that they had been “very cooperative” with the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) and the Antiquities Monuments & Museums Corporation (AMMC) on restoring heritage sites in the area.
“Anything you do there is going to be an environmental concern right out of the gate,” the MP told Tribune Business. “I’m one of those persons who share those concerns, and I think it is very important to respect that. But one thing with this group is that they have worked very well with the BNT, because as you know this development is nearby the Abaco National Park.”
“It doesn’t affect the national park, but it is just nearby to that piece of property that is owned and operated by the BNT. For some time they have been wanting to establish that park as a full-blown natural park, with camp sites, infrastructure and different things that would make it a fully realised national park.
“And one of those aspects that wound up in the Heads of Agreement is funding for the BNT to be able to carry out these goals and transform that into a more formalised park. So they have been working closely with them. It looks like they will be very co-operative and even helping the BNT to maintain those areas, because it is a very important site for the Abaco parrot and other species that live there.”
Mr Albury continued: “They [the developer] are also working once again with the AMMC to restore the old Hole-in-the-Wall Lighthouse area, because it really is a heritage site but for some time it has been in a dilapidated condition.
“So they have committed to restoring and funding that through a Lighthouse Society, much like the one they have on Elbow Cay for the Hope Town Lighthouse. So they have done their homework as far as making sure they mitigate any environmental concerns, but they have to ensure that they are following the environmental impact assessments and other guidelines.
“It appears to me that they are prepared to do quite a bit for the environment in terms of funding the park and those areas, and working with those groups, so they have done their homework there.”
Speaking directly to the potential economic impact and job creation, Mr Albury said: “It’s really going to put another economic anchor in the south, especially for those persons living in the South Abaco, Moors Island, Sandy Point, Crossing Rocks and Cherokee Sound. It’s going to provide another attraction there.”
“I would expect a widening of persons who find employment, but also people who find employment closer to home, maybe bringing some more wealth and some more opportunities in the communities.”