MINISTER of Works Desmond Bannister in The Farm shanty town in Abaco in February.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
WORKS Minister Desmond Bannister yesterday promised “relentless” and “decisive” action will be taken in an Abaco shanty town before the end of this month.
“I am honoured that Cabinet has now given me a mandate with respect to that illegal housing community, The Farm, in Abaco,” he said during his mid-year budget contribution in the House of Assembly.
“Before the end of this month, you are going to see action starting and that action is going to be relentless to ensure, first of all, property of Bahamians is protected, their birthright; secondly, that the community is a safe community; (and thirdly,) that our water table is protected because we don’t know what is happening with our water table. The Minister of Agriculture has done studies and he has been very, very concerned. What I have seen concerns me.
“I want to give notice, speaking now today, that there is going to be action, there is going to be decisive action in relation to that unregulated community.”
Mr Bannister’s comments came as he was giving an overview of his ministry’s actions on various islands.
“My most unpleasant duty in Abaco,” he said, “was to go and look at the illegal housing community. There are legal manoeuvres in the court and there are several injunctions in place. One of those injunctions says that nobody is to build any illegal housing anywhere in The Bahamas, any unregulated housing.
“When I go into these unregulated communities, I see open septic tanks, open, with health hazards; you see wires running haphazardly, you see generators around the community. It’s frightening because you know what could happen. People could be electrocuted. You know there could be fires. At the time when we visited, there was a dead body, a man who was killed by the vapours from his generator.
“My ministry is going to continue to work to ensure that where people live and build unregulated communities, quick action is going to be taken, and effective action. I’m not going to say anything else now, but you’re going to see the action that is going to be taken.”
This is the first time Mr Bannister has given a timeline for action with respect to The Farm.
In January, he told reporters the government was monitoring the construction of unregulated structures there, noting then that legal notices have been affixed to dwellings in the area.
He toured the area with a government delegation the next month, at the time pledging that the government will take the necessary action to deal with unregulated developments on the island.
Although it is not clear how many residents are currently living in The Farm, chairman of Treasure Cay local government Stephanie Hield has estimated that hundreds of illegal structures have been constructed there since Hurricane Dorian in 2019.
In January, Mr Bannister also said that the Farm shanty town could not be cleared because of a court order detailing how the government ought to proceed.
“I believe the Attorney General’s Office and the relevant authorities are seeking to get the appropriate authorisation so we can clear The Farm,” he said at the time.