Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A Cabinet minister yesterday pledged that the government will take all action necessary “within the law” to halt further unregulated development on Abaco.
Desmond Bannister, minister of works, told Tribune Business that the Minnis administration’s Cabinet was “very concerned” after aerial surveillance showed new construction taking place in a shanty town known as the Farm.
Disclosing that it is the last shanty town earmarked for clearance on the island in Hurricane Dorian’s aftermath, Mr Bannister said the government was somewhat restricted in the action it could take due to the fact persons are still living there and by previous Supreme Court orders obtained by human rights activists.
He nevertheless promised that the government will mobilise all the relevant agencies given that any new construction in the Farm was a violation of “no build orders” issued by his ministry.
“Cabinet is very concerned by what we saw happening in essentially one location in Abaco,” Mr Bannister told this newspaper. “Cabinet is very concerned about it, and I believe you will see some action in relation to that shortly with any number of government agencies.
“That area is called The Farm, and there are aerial photos all of us have become very concerned about. Remember, after Dorian we cleared away three shanty towns - The Mudd, Pigeon Pea and the Sandbanks. This area, the Farm, was the last one.
“We were unable to clear it because families were occupying it. The government is going to utilise its resources to clear it as best we can within the law. There shouldn’t be any construction going on,” he continued.
“I anticipate there’ll be action based on our discussions in Cabinet. A number of Orders were made in relation to shanty towns and the court has restricted us quite a bit in relation to them. The Government will take such action within the law that the law permits us to take.”
Tribune Business was itself provided with the same aerial shots, showing construction and expansion activities at the Farm, but a concerned Abaco resident who voiced concern about the Government’s seeming inaction on the matter.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, they said: “Shanty towns are rebuilding bigger than ever in Abaco and the Government is doing nothing to stop it. The police have been told to stand down.
“The Ministry of Works is allowing unpermitted construction there but strict regulations when it comes to anyone else. The Royal Bahamas Defence Force has been told to stand down. Immigration has been told to stand down. They want the community to be the police.”