Two environmental groups deny being consulted over three-wheeler plans
Environmental groups have voiced reservations about recently passed legislation to allow three-wheeler tours amid concerns about their access to the island’s parks.
The Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce and the Bermuda Audubon Society said that they have no objection to the vehicles being allowed on to roads that are already used by other vehicles.
But they said they hoped the proper consideration will be given to any proposed routes within the island’s parks to prevent environmental harm.
The Government said environmental agencies were consulted on the legislation, but neither charity said they were involved any such discussions.
A spokeswoman for the Bermuda Audubon Society said: “The Act and amendments do not specifically address where these vehicles will be allowed to operate, and this is our area of greatest concern.
“We understand that the routes of the newly designated ‘guided tour vehicles’ will need approval. However, we are not clear on how the approval process will work and what criteria will be used to determine an acceptable route.”
The spokeswoman said the charity urged the Government to ensure criteria are in place to safeguard the island’s natural environments.
“It is not only the plants and animals that benefit from quiet undisturbed spaces,” she added. “Our community needs them as well.
“We must ensure that these spaces are preserved and protected.
“We recommend that guided tour vehicles only be allowed to operate on existing roads where cars and taxis are legally allowed to travel and the railway trail must be off limits.”
Kim Smith, executive director at the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce, added: “BEST believes that the legislation was simply to be able to get the tuk-tuk-type vehicles onto the roads.
“We have no issue as long as they are not permitted to travel into the national parks beyond where vehicles are ordinarily permitted, nor along the railway trails.
“Without having had a consultation we are unaware of any plans beyond what appears on the surface.”
The Motor Cars (Livery) Amendment Act 2022 was initially passed in the House of Assembly last year, but an amendment to ban the vehicles from public parks was added by opposition and independent senators.
Lawrence Scott, the Minister of Tourism, said this year that the added amendment would block taxis from being able to access the parks and re-tabled the original legislation for approval.
Mr Scott said the Ministry of Transport had met members of the Senate, environmental agencies and members of the public to answer questions and address concerns about the legislation.
He added that restrictions are in place for vehicles in public parks, and the legislation specifies that tour vehicles would only be able to operate on agreed routes so that protected areas such as sand dunes and beaches will continue to be safeguarded.
The re-tabled legislation subsequently passed in the House and the Senate, despite concerns from the Opposition.
Answering the concerns, a Ministry of Transport spokeswoman last night said: ““After the amendment was put forward and The Bill fell at the end of the parliamentary session in December 2021, the Ministry of Transport agreed to meet with persons and organisations that were identified by the Opposition and those persons and groups who contacted the Ministry directly.
“In addition, the Ministry met with members of the Senate, the Opposition and members of the public to answer questions and address concerns about guided tour vehicle operations.”