The need for sustainable development

The need for sustainable development

Premier Wayne Panton and Dart President Business Development Jackie Doak both agreed on an important aspect of the long-term development goals in the Cayman Islands during their addresses at the Chamber of Commerce Legislative Luncheon on 8 July at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa: Development must be sustainable.

Speaking first, Doak talked about how Dart strove for environmental sustainability with its flagship development, Camana Bay, from the onset of planning in the mid-1990s.

Back then, Dart undertook an environmental assessment, almost two decades before the passage of the National Conservation Act," she said. "We all — Dart, the Department of Planning and the Department of Environment — understood then and understand now the importance of balancing and considering all aspects of sustainable development."

Doak said the Environmental Assessment Report that came from the undertaking looked at the impact on water quality, terrestrial habitat, mangrove habitat, shallow marine resources and socioeconomic implications.

"Over a two-year period of intensive planning and research, we met with multiple focus groups including the civil service, statutory authorities, utility companies, the National Trust for the Cayman Islands, industry bodies and residents," she said. "As a result, we agreed on the framework and development intent for Camana Bay through master planning of a phased development over a minimum of 10 –20 years, which then received planning approval."

Looking at Camana Bay now, Doak said people can see "we do what we say we will do."

Doak said that four pillars of sustainability — land stewardship, smart design, outdoor spaces and renewable energy — exist in Camana Bay and throughout the other Cayman Islands developments undertaken by Dart, including Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa.

"It is clear that in the last 25 years we have proven that our development intent is multi-generational, that we are committed to sustainable development and that we do not develop for short-term profit," she said.

Environmental management framework

Doak reiterated Dart's call for a new policy framework that would help balance Cayman's environmental, social and economic interests "by providing a clearer road map for sustainable development that aligns with the goals of existing and future legislation such as the National Development Plan and the National Conservation Act."

She said on one end of the spectrum, there are lands and habitats which are highly sensitive and of significant environmental importance that absolutely need to be protected. "On the other end of the spectrum, there are lands which, if developed, have the opportunity to provide the greatest economic benefits to the country," she said. "In the middle, where the value is not as clearly defined, having such a framework would be invaluable to guide the decision making."

A comprehensive Environmental Management Framework that provides clear guidance on how land can be developed would give much-needed clarity to conservation groups as well as landowners, Doak said.

"The current lack of clarity not only leads to uncertainty, but it has also created unnecessary polarisation in the community," she said. "Our perspective is that the division seems more intense than it actually is, when ultimately, the majority of the community is seeking the same broad outcomes of sustainable development for our Cayman Islands."

Good land stewardship

In his address, Premier Panton said that in order for Cayman to achieve its long-term development goals, the country must address sustainable development.

Noting that sustainable development is a synergy between environmental and economic factors, Panton said he and his government believe "that tackling sustainable development is the only real pathway to increased long-term prosperity."

Panton's Ministry of Sustainability and Climate Resiliency will oversee the revising of Cayman's National Development Plan, something he said would be a key area of focus of his administration. Even so, he made it clear that neither he nor his government are averse to development, which he acknowledged is a driver of Cayman's domestic economy.

"We simply have to achieve the right balance; we need to reimagine how we do things," he said. "We must encourage and promote good stewardship of our natural resources and environment and the use of well-thought-out design and materials that benefit everyone."

Panton said he was encouraged that a number of Cayman businesses have incorporated ESG — environmental, social and governance — criteria in their operations, and he praised Dart for its commitment to sustainable development.

"I believe that we as a government should consider how to further support those businesses that continue to set the bar when it comes to being good corporate citizens, that support Caymanian advancement and that are truly invested in Cayman’s long-term success."

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This article first appeared in print in the August 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times, written by Alan Markoff.

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