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No exclusive zone given to developers – PM

No exclusive zone given to developers – PM

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The zones that have been established off the coast of Canouan were not set up to prevent people from using the beaches, but seek to regulate use so that all parties involved can benefit.

“I know it is an emotional issue, but there is no exclusive zone given for, or to, the developers. Nobody is stopping anybody to swim…it is for everybody’s safety and protection {{more}} and to make sure that the investment which is there could be properly accommodated,”stressed Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves yesterday, during a press briefing at Cabinet Room.

“Nobody is having any right taken away; it is just a regulation,” added Gonsalves, speaking of the ‘Notice to Mariners SVG 001/16’, published by director of Maritime Administration David Robin on February 2.

The document sets out the areas in which people are allowed to swim, fish, anchor and kite surf off the east and west coasts of Canouan.

The Prime Minister on Monday noted that every country in the world has to regulate its seascape and landscape, and while persons are free to build, they are not free to build anywhere and in any manner in which they want.

“There are regulations and that’s why you have physical planning laws; similarly in all countries, or especially countries which are in the process of development, we have to have regulations in place.

“That is why we have a Shipping Act and that is why authority is given not to the Minister, but to the director of Maritime Administration,” explained Gonsalves.

St Vincent and the Grenadines has a landscape of 150 square miles, but a seascape of 10,400 square nautical miles and as a result laws have been passed to regulate the seascape. These laws, the Prime Minister says, encourage investors.

Gonsalves noted that it is important for persons to get along with the Canouan investors, as over 1,000 Vincentians are employed by them. He said there are persons who are seeking to fuel discord because of political bias, even though they know that the seascape must be regulated.

“It happens in every single country that is seeking to develop. Investors will not put their money in an environment of disorganization,” said Gonsalves, who pleaded, “let us all just simmer down. I would be the last person to deny people access to a beach…but I want to see us regulate the situation properly.

“We are talking about $250 million US in investments and over US$100 million in marina and real estate development.”

The Prime Minister said in this situation, “we can’t now not show maturity and have this investment scuttled and I’m asking the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines, including the people of Canouan to support the orderly arrangements, the regulatory framework which does not deny anyone the use of that bay…what it does is avoids and prevents the free-for-all.”

He said that catamarans and other craft that would wish to anchor there cannot be allowed to do whatever they want and it is in our interest to have these regulations.

“There was a time when people paid no attention to these things, but we are developing top of the line, first quality international resorts, so we have to have regulations,” said Gonsalves, who also stressed that we have to address the matter in a logical, structured and organized way.

“I appeal to all nationals to be mature in their reflections on this matter and not to do anything that would jeopardize the development of our country. Nobody is taking away anybody’s rights, it’s just a regulatory regime to run things better.”

Gonsalves said that investor Andrea Pignataro has shown interest in developing not only the resort, but also the village.

Also speaking on Monday, Commander Robin said that the issue of the buoys that had blocked access to L’anse Guyac Bay has been resolved, but the question of plans by residents to ask the developers to provide access to the beach through lands leased by them remains an issue.

“That cannot be resolved in the view of David Robin by protest. This is a question which requires trust among the parties, between the parties,” said Robin, noting that this set-up exists on Mustique and is possible for Canouan.

“…it happens in Mustique, that persons can access the beaches through the land leased by Mustique and they have the protocols in place so they can call before and there has to be that level of comfort, that there will not be a safety and security incident,” said Robin, who added that there are countries where efforts have failed because of lack of conversation.

The maritime director said that zoning as is articulated in our draft ocean policy has the purpose of seeking orderly development of our sea space.

He said that we must look at ways of how we can best benefit from our “blue economy,” when we are looking at maritime development.

Robin said that all beaches in SVG are public up to the high water mark and nobody can restrict usage, but with beach usage must come safety.

“The facility built by the developers is already in place and aims to parallel an example that is already in place and is working on Mustique. Canouan attracts very influential persons.

“Commercially important persons are attracted to Canouan and it requires only a single incident or accident that can derail a tourism product which we are aiming to build upon…therefore the idea of the swim zone is to promote safety not only for the persons who may be coming, but safety of economic investment and nationals.

“No one is above the law and no one is beneath the law. We often quote half of the statement. In the creation of these zones, they are for everyone and aim to protect and give the best use of the space,” said Robin.

As it relates to the no-anchoring zone, Robin said that this is done to preserve certain areas that have been designated as fisheries conservation areas and SVG has signed on to a regional document that aims to conserve 20 per cent of near shore waters by 2020.

Robin said his assessment of the Canouan issue is that the matter is politically and emotionally charged, but there are a number of things that can be done to strengthen conversations on the island.

He also disclosed that as it relates to ocean governance, St Vincent and the Grenadines is ahead of other countries, as we are the only country in the Caribbean that has a draft ocean policy with a link to the national development policy.(LC)

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