Archive | Unregulated Development

Urgent action needed on Blackbeard’s Cay

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Dear Prime Minister Christie,

Save The Bays (STB) would hereby like to indicate its full support for the call by our civic partner, reEarth, for the immediate closure of the Blackbeard’s Cay development on Balmoral Island.

The Supreme Court has ruled emphatically that the facilitywas constructed in breach of the law and ordered that it be closed and the marine mammals housed there be removed immediately. STB therefore considers its continued operation to constitute an affront to the authority of the judiciary and a blow to respect for the rule of law as enshrined in the Bahamas Constitution.

In January of this year, the developer, Blue Illusions limited, was found by the court to have proceeded in the absence of necessary permits and approvals. The company’s dolphin import licenses and the site plan approval granted by the Town Planning committee were also quashed and it was ordered that the land be returned to its original use and condition.

To date, none of this has happened. Indeed, we understand that in defiance of the order, Blackbeard’s Cay continues to operate and market itself to cruise passengers stopping in The Bahamas.

This high profile flouting of the law could have serious implications for the good name of The Bahamas abroad, as reEarth has rightly pointed out. Aside from the increasing global opposition to marine mammal captivity, the abysmal handling of this matter has raised alarming questions about the state of governance in a country that depends on a reputation for stability and adherence to the law for its survival.

Reputable foreign investors seeking to undertake projects that have the potential to create considerable financial and employment opportunities for this country will no doubt be turned off by the impression that The Bahamas has become a ‘wild west’ where the rule of law means little to nothing in practice.

At the same time, a failure on your part to treat the court’s order with the respect it deserves will only signal to those wishing to engage in unregulated development, to the detriment of the interests of The Bahamian people, that the government has effectively given them a green light to do as they please.

STB has repeatedly spoken out against foreign developers engaging in unregulated development, damaging our environmental heritage and defying of our sovereign laws in the process. We call upon the government of The Bahamas, as the defender and guarantor of the public’s rights – and particularly on you, prime minister, who serves as the custodian of the nation’s patrimony – to take action on this matter immediately.

If the status quo persists, in due course, we intend to bring our concerns to the attention of the cruise ship industry, whose members would no doubt be considerably alarmed to learn that they may be contributing to a facility that has been deemed unlawful by the courts. We urge you to intervene and ensure that the law takes its course before such a step becomes necessary.

Sincerely,

Vanessa Haley-Benjamin

CEO, Save The Bays

 

International experts lament Nygard Cay “tragedy”

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Respected conservationists say the government should never have allowed controversial development to damage the marine environment with impunity

International conservation experts branded the controversial development known as Nygard Cay a “tragedy” for The Bahamian people, and criticized the government for giving preferential treatment to a wealthy foreign investor over the country’s own citizens.

The experts, hosted on a tour of the area by fast-growing social and environmental advocacy group Save The Bays (STB), said allowing Canadian fashion designer Peter Nygard to extend his imposing Mayan-themed project onto publicly-owned land without the necessary permits and in a manner that has caused significant environmental damage, calls into question the state of democracy in The Bahamas today.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like Nygard cay before,” said Rachael Silverstein, the Waterkeeper for Biscayne Bay, Florida. It is really a tragedy how much beautiful marine area and land that belongs to the people has been appropriated by a single individual, and for such an egregious use.”

Ariel of Nygard Cay after December 2014 Drtedging adding Beach januray 2015

 

The property, formerly known as Simm’s Point, has doubled in size since purchased by Nygard in the early 1980s through accretion of Crown land from the seabed in the absence of official permission. The construction of groynes and jetties has also blocked the vital flow of sand into Clifton Bay, an area of vital ecological importance. This, in turn, has contributed to the severe erosion of Jaws Beach, one of the last beaches open to the public on New Providence.

 

Like Silverstein, several of the visitors are senior members of the global Waterkeeper Alliance, a leading NGO that coordinates more than 200 stewards of the marine environment, or Waterkeepers, who are assigned to rivers, bays, lakes and coastal areas around the world.

 

Alex Matthiessen, former Hudson Bay Waterkeeper and Presidential Award winner, now CEO of the Blue Marble Project, said: “To me what is really disturbing about Nygard Cay is the precedent it sets for The Bahamas. The government is basically playing favorites. There are lots of Bahamians who would maybe like to develop their waterfront, get permission to develop Crown lands, but nine times out of 10 they get denied the right to do that.

 

“Here you’ve got a very wealthy foreign investor being allowed to basically destroy Bahamian habitat for his own selfish purposes. What is going on at Nygard Cay is really about the state of democracy in The Bahamas.”

Ariel of Nygard Cay showing Cay after December 2014 Drdging and  how PN has blocked Sand flowing to Neigbours in Clifton Bay January 29015

 

Gabrielle Parent-Doliner, swim guides affiliate at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, said The Bahamas has garnered a great deal of negative attention in her country thanks to the controversy at Nygard Cay.

 

“As a Canadian, I have heard a lot about Nygard – this situation has been covered in every media outlet in Canada,” she said. “Canadians have a reputation of being these environmental stewards, so this is a bit shocking.”

 

The issue has also caught the attention of the US press, with the New York Post reporting last week (http://bit.ly/1JHIzZd) that Nygard could face prison for contempt of court after continuing to dredge the sea floor despite several court injunctions, granted to lawyers acting for STB, which barred all further work on the property.

 

The matter is but one in a series of legal troubles facing the embattled designer. UK and US media are also reporting that neighbor Louis Bacon has filed a $50 million lawsuit against Nygard for defamation (http://dailym.ai/1wwa80i) in connection with unsubstantiated allegations of arson, racism, drug trafficking and even murder.

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A newly released video on the conservationists’ visit to Nygard Cay is part of an ongoing series of short films covering key aspects of STB’s fight for a better Bahamas. It can be viewed on Save The Bays website, www.savethebays.bs, on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/SaveTheBays, or on the organization’s YouTube channelhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ih55gjHvEp8. Please leave comments and share it with friends.

 

Founded just over a year ago, Save The Bays has taken The Bahamas by storm. The grassroots effort to protect ecologically significant areas of the archipelago from unregulated development has transformed into a broad-based coalition that is at the forefront of both social and environmental issues. The group is calling for comprehensive environmental protections, oil spill legislation, greater transparency in government and much needed ‘conchservation’ laws.

With more than 17,200 followers on Facebook, STB is the fastest growing, most popular non-profit, non-government organization in Bahamas history on social media.

The group’s petition calling on the government to enact an Environmental Protection Act, a Freedom of Information Act, to stop unregulated development and to take a stance against oil pollution, is also climbing in numbers, with 6,384 signatures so far. To get involved, sign the petition or learn more, visit www.savethebays.bs.

Gov’t slammed over failed anchor project policy

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Advocacy group hits out at Christie administration’s broken promise of a more environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive development model

 

The government’s continued support for the controversial “anchor project” policy of national development is the subject of a new video by prominent social and environmental advocacy group Save The Bays (STB).

The video, narrated by STB education director Joseph Darville, documents how the current administration promised to create sustainable local economies on each Family Island that would benefit Bahamians, only to revert to the shortsighted old model of mega-resorts owned by wealthy foreign interests.

“Anchor resorts and mega-resorts are continuing to flood our Family Islands, and as more and more invade our shores they are being kept secret from the Bahamian public,” Darville said.

“But hold on, didn’t we hear that Perry Christie and his government had abandoned the anchor project plan? Didn’t they mention something about full-circle economies in the Family Islands? Something must be dead wrong, since all these new developments are like the old failing ones.”

Darville noted that the developers of anchor projects, which are mostly gated and exclusive, arrive in the Bahamas with promises of many jobs. The projects move forward with the full support of local politicians eager to announce new employment opportunities.

Far too many of the projects go bankrupt and fail, he said, but only after destroying the local environment and culture – which the government has a duty to protect for the prosperity of generations of Bahamians to come.

“All these anchor projects are dumped on our Family Islands, they are all the same. Now, they conjure up new buzzwords, like sustainability and full-circle economy, but they are nothing new. And if they have not worked in the past, they will not now, or ever. And yet our politicians keep up this charade, deceiving the public,” Darville said.

He explained that while many of these mega resorts were failing over the years, small sustainable developments throughout the islands have been succeeding.

STB has advocated for a tourism development model based on such smaller scale resorts with a modest environmental footprint. Such a policy, the group says, would not only protect the country’s natural resources for future generations, but also make Bahamian ownership in the industry a realistic proposition.

The new video is part of an ongoing series covering key aspects of the organization’s fight for a better Bahamas. It can be viewed on Save The Bays website, www.savethebays.bs, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SaveTheBays, or on the organization’s YouTube channel (http://bit.ly/1BbqfIi). Please leave comments and share it with friends.

Founded less than two years ago, Save The Bays has taken The Bahamas by storm. The grassroots effort to protect ecologically significant areas of the archipelago from unregulated development has transformed into a broad-based coalition that is at the forefront of both social and environmental issues. The group is calling for comprehensive environmental protections, oil spill legislation, greater transparency in government and much needed marine species preservation laws.
With more than 17,200 followers on Facebook, STB is the fastest growing, most popular non-profit, non-government organization in Bahamas history on social media.
The group’s petition calling on the government to enact an Environmental Protection Act, a Freedom of Information Act, to stop unregulated development and to take a stance against oil pollution, is also climbing in numbers, with 6,384 signatures so far. To get involved, sign the petition or learn more, visit www.savethebays.bs.

ent model based on such smaller scale resorts with a modest environmental footprint. Such a policy, the group says, would not only protect the country’s natural resources for future generations, but also make Bahamian ownership in the industry a realistic proposition.

The new video is part of an ongoing series covering key aspects of the organization’s fight for a better Bahamas. It can be viewed on Save The Bays website, www.savethebays.bs, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SaveTheBays, or on the organization’s YouTube channel (http://bit.ly/1BbqfIi). Please leave comments and share it with friends.

Founded just over a year ago, Save The Bays has taken The Bahamas by storm. The grassroots effort to protect ecologically significant areas of the archipelago from unregulated development has transformed into a broad-based coalition that is at the forefront of both social and environmental issues. The group is calling for comprehensive environmental protections, oil spill legislation, greater transparency in government and much needed ‘conchservation’ laws.

With more than 17,200 followers on Facebook, STB is the fastest growing, most popular non-profit, non-government organization in Bahamas history on social media.

The group’s petition calling on the government to enact an Environmental Protection Act, a Freedom of Information Act, to stop unregulated development and to take a stance against oil pollution, is also climbing in numbers, with 6,384 signatures so far. To get involved, sign the petition or learn more, visit www.savethebays.bs.

Court Dismisses Appeal, reEarth Scores Major Victory in Blackbeard’s Cay Case

Environmental and animal rights advocates scored what they called “a major victory after a 24-year long battle” this week when the Court of Appeal dismissed Government’s appeal of a Supreme Court’s decision that permits allowing the opening and operation of an island attraction across from the western end of Cable Beach were improperly granted.

The case involved the island re-named Blackbeard’s Cay opposite Sandals Royal Bahamian, a project reportedly costing $8 million, intended as an offshore excursion for Carnival Cruise Line passengers.

Nassau businesspeople, including retailers and operators of numerous other attractions, argued against touristic development of the island so close to Nassau, saying diverting as many as half a million passengers away from known establishments, museums, restaurants, fishing, boating and snorkeling excursions would lead to serious economic repercussions, including job loss. The threat of economic loss did not deter St. Maarten businessman Samir Andrawos and Bahamian partners from continuing.

It wasn’t until late 2013 when Save The Bays’ legal team agreed to take on the case on behalf of reEarth to raise environmental, development processing and animal rights issues that the courts became involved, catapulting the conversation from what’s good for local business, investment and jobs to what’s legal in the development process.

When the case went to court in April, lead attorney Fred Smith, QC, senior partner at Callenders Grand Bahama, told the Supreme Court the evidence pointed to a “tsunami of disregard” for due process and the rule of law as civil servants rubber-stamped approvals for the project at the behest of their superiors.

“The facts of the case evidence what I could term an endemic subservience, an institutional subservience entrenched in the civil service, to cater to ministerial dictate,” he told the Supreme Court. “The Cabinet and the minister are regarded as the extreme authority on what should happen, regardless of what parliament has legislated.”

Attorneys presented evidence showing the Blackbeard’s Cay project moved forward in the absence of necessary site approvals, environmental studies, public hearings and proof of the developer’s compliance with mandated conditions. In allowing this to happen, Smith said, the government contravened the provisions of the Planning and Subdivisions Act (PSA), the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act (CLPA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).

In July, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Isaacs quashed the permits, agreeing with the attorneys’ assertion that “the development has been carried out, and continues to be carried out, unlawfully.”

Government officials including the Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Local Government, the Director of Fisheries and Marine Resources, the Town Planning Committee and the Minister Responsible for Crown Lands, appealed the case. When they failed to file the Record of Appeal in the stipulated time, the appeal was dismissed. The dismissal came via an order signed in mid-November but mailed and received by the lawyers on December 4.

The dismissal has left those who have been arguing for an end to unregulated development and the protection of animal rights ecstatic.

Along with matters surrounding the permitting process, at the heart of the issue was the future of penned dolphins at the island. ReEarth presented evidence during the April trial showing that the nine dolphins had no shade, were in shallow waters and a substandard size pen – all in violation of Bahamian law and international standards.

“This has been a long, hard 24-year battle,” said Sam Duncombe, a director of Save The Bays and founder of reEarth which has collected 96,000 signatures on a petition calling on the Bahamas government to protect dolphins and other marine mammals from being treated as chattel for entertainment and the tiered transition from confinement for shows to sanctuaries where visitors can view the mammals in their natural state. Duncombe points to falling audience numbers and share value for Sea World, saying that films like Blackfish have opened people’s eyes to what confinement does to these self-aware and highly socialized mammals. “The entire industry rips these mammals’ families apart and just like humans, each dolphin has a ‘place’ in its family structure. The petition calls for an end tomammal facility breeding programs going forward, prohibits future imports or exports of marine mammals to The Bahamas and looks to a tiered closure of all marine mammal facilities in The Bahamas with a plan to house retired dolphins in a sanctuary funded by the very industry that has benefitted from their enslavement for decades.”

While Duncombe is pleased that the victory in the current case is bringing new attention to the plight of animals for entertainment, Smith and other Save The Bays directors say the case shows that governments can be held accountable for obeying their own laws when it comes to development.

The most recent court action brought a smiling, “victory for the rule of law” accolade from Save The Bays director and Bahamas Waterkeeper President Joseph Darville.

“As the president of Waterkeeper Bahamas and the education director of Save The Bays, I would like to state my joy and pleasure about the outcome of this case which has restored my confidence in the independence of the judiciary of The Bahamas,” said Darville. “As a Waterkeeper, I am concerned about every element of water in The Bahamas and about these wonderful animals that have aligned themselves so much with the consciousness of human beings. We have an obligation to treat them in a humane manner. As a director of Save The bays, I salute reEarth and our legal team for their passionate insistence in bringing this debacle with the powers that be to a successful and glorious conclusion.”

Duncombe echoed appreciation for the legal team, adding that the case should make The Bahamas think twice about the face it shows the world in dolphin care.

“ReEarth is very grateful for the support of Save The Bays and of course our awesome legal team,” said Duncombe.

According to the judge’s ruling, the Ministry of Agriculture is required to take responsibility for the fate of the dolphins at Blackbeard’s Cay, placing them in an appropriate location.

“I would be happy to work with the Minister to ensure that when these poor dolphins that have suffered so are moved, they will have a new home where they can lead lives that are as secure and free as possible,” said Duncombe. “Until they are assessed, they cannot be released into the wild because they have become dependent on being fed and would require rehabilitation to make sure they could fend for themselves. In the meantime, we can protect them in a sanctuary and the silver lining in this case may just be that it leads to the first dolphin sanctuary in The Bahamas – something which reEarth is working on and something that would be fantastic for tourism as well as for these amazing mammals we share the planet with who call each other by name, swim 50 miles a day and make choices about their daily lives just as humans do. This would send an enlightened and positive message to the world that The Bahamas cares and is tune with the ever-expanding global awareness about the welfare of marine mammals.”

International experts alarmed over Bimini development

International environmental experts have raised concerns over the ongoing resort construction in Bimini, which they say is already impacting the surrounding marine ecosystem.

International environmental experts have raised concerns over the ongoing resort construction in Bimini, which they say is already impacting the surrounding marine ecosystem.

New video backs prominent environmentalists’ concerns over effect of dredging and other works on the pristine and ecologically significant marine environment

 

A group of international conservation experts has expressed serious concern over the environmental impact of ongoing resort construction on and around the island of Bimini.

 

The experts, hosted on a tour of Bimini by fast-growing social and environmental advocacy group Save The Bays (STB), said they fear the work may destroy some of the most significant coral reefs in the region and put the island’s traditional industries at risk (see video at SaveTheBays Bahamas youtube site: http://bit.ly/1nNEXKF).

 

“The Bahamas are some of the most beautiful and wonderful places in the world,” said Marydele O’Donnely, director of international policy for the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC). “I’ve traveled extensively and I have been absolutely amazed by how the habitat looks here.

 

“But when I see developments like what is happening in North Bimini I am not only alarmed and concerned, but really saddened. Things have happened here that shouldn’t have happened.

 

“You can have development but you need to do it properly, and it hasn’t been done properly.”

 

Archie Carr III, also an STC director, called what he saw in Bimini “quite depressing” – particularly the impact of a massive seafloor dredging operation undertaken to make way for a 1,000 foot pier and cruise ship terminal, right at the heart of Bimini’s most valuable reefs and dive sites.

 

Carr said the operation resulted in “enormous siltation”, which locals say continues to blanket the surrounding sea floor and suffocate struggling marine life.

 

Many of the visitors were senior members of the global Waterkeeper Alliance, a leading NGO that coordinates more than 200 stewards of the marine environment, or Waterkeepers, who monitor and help safeguard rivers, bays, lakes and coastal areas around the world.

 

Noting the importance of Bimini marine environment, both ecologically and in economic terms, Rachel Silverstein, the Waterkeeper for Biscayne Bay, Florida said: “The development that’s going on here is threatening the livelihood of Bahamians who have businesses here that support the tourism industry.”

 

The developer, Resorts World Bimini, owned by Malaysian conglomerate Genting, has claimed its presence will boost the local economy, but Biminites have grown increasingly concerned that the property will end up monopolizing the tourism business.

 

One said: “They are now advertising their ‘six restaurants and bars and world class casino’, as well as a variety of water sports, a beach club and restaurant and a craft market, all within their walls.

 

“At what point are the day guests supposed to contribute to the local economy in the six hours they spend on the island?”

 

Alex Matthiessen, former Hudson Bay Waterkeeper, now CEO of the Blue Marble Project, concurred with this assessment and noted that the concern runs even deeper.

 

“No one, even we environmentalists or the Biminites here, are against development, we’re ok with development. The issue is local Biminites who have been making a healthy living off the natural resources here for many generations are being violated, when this kind of development happens.”

 

Meanwhile, local efforts to bring preserve Bimini’s marine habitat and traditional local economy took a significant blow recently when a court ruled that STB affiliate Bimini Blue Coalition had to pay more than $300,000 before their legal challenge of the development could be heard by a judge.

 

Despite battling tirelessly for many months, the grassroots coalition was forced to admit defeat, with attorney and STB legal director Fred Smith, QC, lamenting the fact that conservationists had been “priced out of justice”

 

Smith said it should be very troubling to all Bahamians when citizens with no personal axe to grind, who are merely seeking to defend the public interest, are denied their day in court due to their financial stature.

 

However, concerned citizens have vowed to continue closely monitoring developments in Bimini, particularly with an eye to blocking the plan to fill in North Bimini’s mangrove swamp and transform it into a golf course.

 

This same area was listed as the highest-priority site in the Bahamas for a proposed Marine Protected Area in the year 2000 by the Government of The Bahamas in recognition of its ecological and economic value of its habitat.

 

Fourteen years later, the North Bimini Marine Reserve is still not a reality.

 

During a recent visit to Bimini, Minister Alfred Gray advised Biminites to learn more about the trade of turf maintenance, spurring concerns that Resorts World was going to pursue filling in north Bimini’s mangroves and turning what was to become a marine protected area into a golf course. 

 

“This crucial area is a nursery for an abundance of marine species which are significant for the fishing industry not just in Bimini, but many of the surrounding islands as well,” Smith said. “We cannot allow that to happen.” 

 

To learn more about the conservationists’ tour, and the ongoing efforts to protect the environment and traditional way of life in The Bahamas, visit: https://www.youtube.com/user/ProtectCliftonBay.

Pictures ‘Show Silt Damage Caused By Bimini Ferry’

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Originally published in The Tribune

September 8th, 2014

THE environmentalist group Bimini Blue Coalition has released photographs taken a week ago by a ferry passenger which it claims shows a plume of mud and silt thrown up by the Resorts World Bimini (RWB) SuperFast.

The Coalition has been fighting RWB’s construction of a cruise ship terminal, 1,000-foot pier and man-made island and dredging activities associated with it. Its concerns include turbidity issues related to the SuperFast ferry operation, which brings passengers from Port Miami on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

“What were once the clearest waters in the Bahamas, world famous for their beauty and bounty, are now becoming a disgusting plume of mud and silt,” the Coalition said in a statement. “RWB is also now stating that they are going to increase the schedule for the SuperFast, further polluting Bimini’s waters and killing our reefs every day of the week.

“This is terrible for all of Bimini’s businesses and residents, and is making the island far less appealing to tourists. What will be left for Bimini’s residents and tourism industry, including RWB, once they’ve further destroyed the beauty of what draws people here in the first place? There is no plan in their Environmental Management Plan to address turbidity issues during operation, despite it being one of the most serious threats of this whole project.”

RWB announced on Thursday that it has completed construction of the pier and that the ferry will start using it from September 18. In addition, Genting Group, which owns the resort and the ferry, announced that it will begin ferry service from Fort Lauderdale to Bimini on October 14. The ship will leave Port Everglades on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, in addition to its departures from Port Miami.

Genting has been tendering passengers from the ferry to the bay side of the island, a process that takes about an hour each way. Guests then take a shuttle to the resort or to Alice Town for sightseeing. Time on the island for a day trip totals only about two and a half hours.

However, with the new port, which was built on the ocean side, guests will disembark directly from the ferry onto land and be able to spend five to six hours on the island, Genting says.

The ferry — a 13-year-old cruise ship renamed the Bimini SuperFast — began sailing from Miami to Bimini just over a year ago after Genting bought the former Bimini Bay Resort, built a casino and started work on a 305-room marina hotel, to be completed this autumn.

Although some passengers stay on the island overnight, a large majority are daytrippers on the ferry, which leaves Miami at 9am and returns around 7pm. The ferry has two casinos, a sports book and VIP rooms for high-rollers, and many of the daytrippers play at Genting’s casino on the island.

Although construction of the dock was approved by the Bahamas government, it ran into opposition from people who complained that it would damage coral and the rest of the underwater environment.

The new dock includes a temporary Customs and Immigration facility; permanent facilities are the next phase of the project. Genting also will build new beach amenities, including a restaurant, beach club and craft market.

Read original article here

Bimini conservationists ‘priced out of justice’

JUGGERNAUT – The mammoth dredger ‘Niccolo Machiavelli’, one of the largest and most powerful of its kind in the world, in the process of dredging a huge swath of the seafloor off the coast of Bimini to make way for a 1,000-foot pier and cruise ship terminal. Months later, the blanket of silt created as a result is continuing to harm the island’s precious marine habitat. Advocacy group Bimini Blue Coalition has been forced to give up its court battle to bring the project to a halt over environmental concerns, due to a ruling that the group to pay more than $300,000 before the matter could even be heard.

JUGGERNAUT – The mammoth dredger ‘Niccolo Machiavelli’, one of the largest and most powerful of its kind in the world, in the process of dredging a huge swath of the seafloor off the coast of Bimini to make way for a 1,000-foot pier and cruise ship terminal. Months later, the blanket of silt created as a result is continuing to harm the island’s precious marine habitat. Advocacy group Bimini Blue Coalition has been forced to give up its court battle to bring the project to a halt over environmental concerns, due to a ruling that the group to pay more than $300,000 before the matter could even be heard.

Court ruling forces Bimini Blue Coalition to discontinue battle to protect tiny island treasure from the scourge of unregulated development

Despite battling tirelessly to preserve the unique and ecologically significant marine habitat surrounding Bimini, a group of concerned citizens has been forced to admit defeat in the face of a court ruling ordering them to pay more than $300,000 before the matter could be heard by a judge.

            Bimini Blue Coalition (BBC), a small, grassroots conservation movement, had challenged the mega-development being constructed on the tiny island by Resorts World Bimini, an offshoot of Malaysian conglomerate Genting, on the grounds that it had and would continue to cause significant damage to the vitally important surrounding marine environment, as well as Bimini’s distinct culture and way of life. BBC also challenged the government for allowing the work to go ahead in the absence of necessary permits and approvals.

            “Unfortunately, we have been priced out of justice,” said BBC attorney Fred Smith, QC. “Before the matter could even have its day in court, the developers and the government were able to successfully argue in the Supreme Court that because we are nothing more than a modest non-profit movement, we would have to pay more than $600,000 in security for costs – basically a downpayment proving we could cover the costs in case we happened to lose.

            “The Court of Appeal later reduced the amount to $315,000 – a victory of sorts, but unfortunately still far more than a small group like BBC can afford. We had no choice but to surrender the case.”

            Smith said it should be a matter of serious concern for all Bahamians that concerned citizens with no personal axe to grind, who are seeking to defend the public interest, can be denied their day in court because their financial stature.

            “At the end of the day, what it means is that when it comes to justice in The Bahamas, you have to be able to ‘pay to play’. The government and foreign developers with deep pockets can join forces to ensure that ordinary citizens are blocked from accessing justice.”

            Despite BBC’s disappointment, the struggle to save Bimini is not being regarded as a total defeat, Smith said.

            In June, Smith was successful in convincing the London-based Privy Council, the highest court in the Bahamian legal system, to halt the large-scale dredging of the seafloor of North Bimini to make way for a 1,000 foot pier and cruise ship terminal. At stake was the destruction of  a pristine and ecologically invaluable reef system that included 14 of the best dive sites in the region and was a vital component of Bimini’s tourism economy.

            The Privy Council ruled that it was unclear if the developer had all the necessary permits and approvals to undertake the dredging, and expressed concern over the production of a last-minute permit dated well after the dredging had commenced.

            However, after an injunction that stood for several weeks, a local judge decided that the permit in question was in fact sufficient and allowed work to continue.

            At the local level, BBC enjoyed some moral victories. When the dredging first began in March, it was criticized by Court of Appeal Justice Abdulai Conteh, who said “no self-respecting government” would allow the work to progress when it was being challenged in the courts.

            Smith’s announcement that the case would be abandoned coincides with renewed concerns about the destruction of Bimini’s marine environment, as locals report that months after the dredging was officially due to end, the negative effects continue.

            “The amount of silt and mud in the normally clear waters is absolutely astounding. From the dolphin banks up north, all the way down past South Bimini, the visibility has been much worse that we would normally get during hurricane force winds,” said one concerned Biminite.

            “During the last couple of days, there was as much silt flowing out of the area as when the dredger was active.”

            Now, he said, a gentle wind is all it takes to kick up a huge cloud of sediment, which as it settles, blankets the surrounding reefs and other important marine habitats, smothering and suffocating the sea life for miles around.

            “This is truly alarming, and worse than I was expecting. We can only hope that it improves over time as more and more of the mud and silt is washed out to sea,” the observer said.

         Mean while, Smith said Save The Bays (STB) the umbrella social and environmental justice movement of which BBC is a part, will continue to monitor the situation in Bimini and report to the public on the impact of development going forward.

            “Of particular concern is the plan to fill in North Bimini’s mangrove swamp and transform it into a golf course. This crucial area is a nursery for an abundance of marine species which are significant for the fishing industry not just in Bimini, but many of the surrounding islands as well,” he said.

            “We cannot allow that to happen. The countless average Bahamians who make their living off the sea, who work in local restaurants, who love seafood, will see their lives seriously affected while a foreign company reaps all the profits. Save The Bays will not stand idly by and allow that to happen.”

            At the same time, Smith said, STB will continue to fight several other court cases over what it claims are unregulated, environmentally detrimental and socially disruptive developments around The Bahamas.

            “In the long-run, we will win,” he said. “Through our education campaigns and court challenges, we will be successful in changing the rules of the game, forcing government to stop catering to the whims of wealthy foreign developers over the needs of the average Bahamian citizen.”

Govt Banned From Starting New Nygard Consultation

Originally published in The Tribune

By: Rashad Rolle

August 27th, 2014

 

GOVERNMENT was forbidden by the Supreme Court from undertaking a new consultation process on applications by Lyford Cay resident Peter Nygard for building permits and Crown land until a judicial review has been completed.

Last month, Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Bain imposed an injunction prohibiting the government from making decisions on Mr Nygard’s applications.

However, in a notice published in The Nassau Guardian on August 6, the government effectively announced the start of a new consultation process.

In a closed court session on Monday, Justice Bain gave the environmental group, Save the Bays (STB), the freedom to seek judicial review over the latest consultation process while prohibiting the government from starting new ones.

The government, therefore, cannot consult on Mr Nygard’s building permit application, future building applications, Crown lease application and the anticipated applications for works relating to existing and non-existing seabed structures.

The government also cannot consider, or continue to consider granting permits, approvals or leases with respect to these applications.

STB, which was represented by lawyer Dawson Malone, argued that the government’s latest consultation process was irrational because it allegedly breached the terms of last month’s injunction imposed on the government’s first consultation process.

Aside from this, Mr Malone argued that the latest process is similarly flawed in many ways.

He said the government has failed to disclose essential documents and information on the applications so people could make meaningful contributions to them. Among those documents, he said, is a land use plan.

He described the government’s most recent notice of its consultation process, which appeared in The Nassau Guardian earlier this month, as unclear.

“It is unclear from the new consultation notices whether the invitation for comments in the notice relates just to the building permit application or to all the applications referred to in the notice,” his group wrote as part of its submission in support of its application seeking to apply for judicial review. “All four categories of applications are mentioned in the notice which suggests that the invitation to provide comments within 21 days may relate to all four. The notice is unsatisfactory and therefore flawed in this respect. This is unfair on the applicant and renders the consultation process inadequate and unfair.”

Mr Malone also argued that STB should be allowed to apply for judicial review because of pre-existing decisions from the Department of Physical Planning to reject similar applications from Mr Nygard while requiring him to restore the coastline at Nygard Cay to its original state.

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Govt Hit With Third Injunction Over Nygard Applications

Originally published in The Nassau Guardian

By: Alison Lowe

August 27th, 2014

 

The government has been hit with yet another injunction after an environmental group complained that it has moved ahead with a second “flawed” public consultation over Peter Nygard’s development-related applications. The move on the part of the government to continue the process of considering the applications came despite a previous legal action against an initial public consultation on
the matter having yet to be concluded and an injunction against further consideration of the application still being in place.

The Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay was also granted leave to seek judicial review of the government’s actions for a second time during a hearing on Monday.

In a shift from the initial judicial review action launched by Save the Bays, the latest judicial review action challenges not only the consultation process itself, which the coalition maintains is again “flawed” due to lack of available information, but also the government’s apparent failure to produce a land use plan to guide the determination of any development approvals in the country.

Lawyers have pointed out in the action that a land use plan which is consistent with “national land use development policies” is called for under the Planning and Subdivision Act, which came into effect in January 2011. The act suggests that once approved, the plan should “guide” the government whenever it is considering any application for development approval, but it is yet to be produced some three and a half years later.

Dawson Malone, attorney for the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay, said the group had to move “urgently” to file for the judicial review and injunction against the government after it noticed that the government had yet again published public notices indicating that it intended to engage in public consultation over various approvals sought by the billionaire fashion mogul for further development of his property at the tip of Lyford Cay.

“The reason why we had to move urgently was because the second consultation process was due to expire today,” Malone told Guardian Business.

Fellow attorney on the matter, Romauld Ferreira, said the government set a precedent in the case of approvals granted to Resorts World Bimini for its North Bimini Ferry Terminal for moving quickly to accommodate developers, leaving the coalition with little option but to quickly launch its second legal battle with respect to the government’s apparent intention to push ahead with the Nygard consultation process.

“Bimini was a huge eye opener in terms of just how far the government is willing to go to accommodate the right person. So with these issues I think people may get desensitized, but these are important. It’s saying you have to follow the rules everyone else has to follow. The government is trying to circumvent the rules for those they favor, and they’ve shown that, under the right circumstances they’re capable of moving very, very quickly,” said Ferreira.

The action names Prime Minister Perry Christie, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works Philip Davis, Director of Physical Planning Michael Major, the Town Planning Committee, the Minister of the Environment and Housing Kenred Dorsett, Minister of Transport and Aviation Glenys Hanna Martin, Buildings Control Officer Craig Delancy and the Department of Physical Planning as respondents.

Notices indicating plans to push ahead with another public consultation on Nygard’s applications appeared gazetted in The Nassau Guardian in August. Less than a month earlier, the Supreme Court had granted injunction requests against the government preventing the Christie administration from making decisions on Nygard’s applications for building permits and Crown land.

The initial injunction and judicial review action approval came after both environmental group Save the Bays (STB) and 103 Lyford Cay residents and property owners moved to sue the government over what STB called its “fundamentally flawed” consultation process over Nygard’s applications. It was claimed that critical information that was supposed to be made available to members of the public in that process was not.

Malone said that the latest judicial review action, allowed to proceed by Justice Bain, “highlights the failure of the government, with a piece of legislation in force since January 1, 2011, to do a very simple task – to produce the land use plan.”

“It’s supposed to be produced under the act, to be published on the government website,” he added.

The injunction restrains the government from doing certain things until the judicial review application is determined.

These include: carrying out the consultation processes in relation to applications made by Nygard, considering applications made by Nygard or granting approvals with respect to the applications made.

A hearing has been set for October 29 and 30 during which the government can apply to have the injunction lifted.

 

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New Questions Raised Over Nygard Consultation

Originally published in The Tribune

By: Rashad Rolle

August 13th, 2014

 

ENVIRONMENTAL group Save the Bays yesterday questioned why a notice was published in a local daily last week indicating a new 21-day consultation process over land applications by billionaire fashion mogul Peter Nygard despite a Supreme Court order barring the Christie administration from engaging in such a process.

Several weeks ago, Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Bains imposed an injunction prohibiting the government from making decisions on Mr Nygard’s applications for building permits and Crown land.

Despite this, in a notice published in The Nassau Guardian last week Tuesday, the government appeared to have effectively renewed its consultation process on Mr Nygard’s applications. The notice, signed by Director of Physical Planning Michael Major, said the government would give interested people and organisations 21 days to respond as it reviews a building permit application by Mr Nygard and a report related to leasing Crown land to him.

In view of this, Save the Bays (STB) lawyer Fred Smith yesterday questioned why the government appears adamant about moving Mr Nygard’s plans forward while allegedly failing to address the Crown land applications of thousands of Bahamians.

“I represent the new NGO, Crown Land for Bahamians (CLB),” he said. “I am absolutely bewildered as to why our Bahamian government should be so hot to try to give Peter Nygard $35 million worth of Crown land when there are 35,000 applications for Crown land from Bahamians that have not gotten a formal response. And if I am wrong with that figure, then I challenge my Prime Minister to say how many applications have not received a response. Our Prime Minister is the trustee of Crown land for the benefit of Bahamians, not the trustee of Crown land for the benefit of foreign developers like Peter Nygard.

“I am shocked that despite the injunction by Justice Bain in the recent judicial review that Save the Bays launched, stopping the government from considering and consulting on Nygard’s applications, the government has published its new notice in the Guardian sparking a new consultation process giving the public 21 days to make contributions as to whether Nygard should have his applications granted.” In Mr Smith’s opinion he found the action “indecent, obscene and perverse.”

“What this means,” he said, “is that Mr Nygard comes first and Bahamians come last. Bahamians do not matter in this country. Foreigners have an advantage.”

This is the third time this year that the government has announced that people would have 21 days to participate in the consultation process on Mr Nygard’s applications.

After the first consultation period expired, the government granted a further 21-day extension because of flaws in the process that included its failure to produce all relevant documents for people who might have wished to contribute to the debate.

Although Mr Smith believes the new consultation process cannot continue, he said yesterday that the same problem of not having all necessary information persists.

“We attended the Ministry of Works (yesterday) to view documents under the new public notice and we were told there were no documents to view. I would like to know what game my government is playing with the Bahamian public in so far as Peter Nygard is concerned. Why is Peter Nygard getting such special treatment from my government?”

In addition to reviewing a building permit application of Mr Nygard, the government’s notice said: “The department is also reviewing a report titled “Nygard Cay Coastal Process and Coastal Service. . .and commissioned by the government of the Bahamas. The report is to guide the decision making process in respect to an application to lease certain areas of the seabed adjacent to Simms Point (Nygard Cay) presently being considered. . .”

The government recently filed a summons seeking to lift the Supreme Court’s injunction on its ability to make decisions on Mr Nygard’s applications.

However, a hearing on the matter yesterday was adjourned to October with the injunction remaining in place at least until then.

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