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Saving the unspoilt

March 15, 2011

Dear Sir,

I read this weekend in the Financial Times travel section about an island in the Mediterranean called Porquerolles. The reviewer states that when on holiday she, like most people, is really only interested in two things: beauty and solitude, preferably in combination. Porquerolles, she writes, “is unique in its beauty, its climate and its state of preservation”. She explains that the French government bought 80 percent of the island in the 1970s “to preserve it from the speculation that has ravaged the rest of the coastline”. The result “is a little under five square miles of conserved Mediterranean paradise nothing but fine, sandy beaches, secluded creeks, parasol pines, vineyards, olive trees, fig orchards, lavender fields and green oak forests; all of it crossed by a network of cycle paths”.

The writer continues: “The spirit of conservancy that pervades the island tends to turn its inhabitants into museum guards, quick to lecture you on the perils wrought by human habitation. Although no cars are allowed on the island, you will see plenty of them ... behind their wheels sit the privileged few who own property on the island or those who work for the National Park or the Botanical Conservancy.” Places such as Porquerolles are becoming rarer and more valuable by the day and the income from their sophisticated approach to tourism reflects it.

Looking at Condé Nast's top ten beach holiday spots (needless-to-say Bermuda is not one of them), the following words appear in the locations' descriptions: Unspoilt, peaceful, sustainable, wilderness, sleepy, private, safe, well spread out houses, pure, sanctuary, haven for turtles, secluded, barely developed, intelligent luxury tourism, light footprint, beautifully restored. Bermudians must take a very good look at the options facing the island at this time. Short-term construction jobs should not be traded for the long-term health of our tourism industry. As Edward Abbey wrote: “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

As we stand at the edge of this precipice we must ask ourselves this salient question: will ours be the generation on whose watch a major tract of Bermuda's last remaining pristine wilderness was destroyed? There is still time to create a vibrant, sustainable tourism industry based on green principles. Let's hope our senators will have the foresight to say no the Tucker's Point SDO. As the Navaho proverb goes: “We do not inherit the land from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

FRITHA WOLSAK

Cambridge, England

This is what I said

March 15, 2011

Dear Sir,

In the full page ad in your paper of today by Tucker's Point, “How Bermuda will benefit from the Tucker's Point SDO”, the large photo used at the bottom of that ad reveals the true extent of the misinformation they are foisting on the Bermuda public! That photo which for many years was the icon of Bermuda tourism promotion used in countless ads in glossy magazines depicts the Tucker's Point golf course as it was before the second SDO which re-located that fairway inland to make space for luxury houses. Are they too embarrassed to show that scene as it is today, saturated with development?

Also, in listening to Mr Trippe on the radio today, an uninformed public might have gotten the impression that I had nothing but praise for Tucker's Point sensitivity to environmental issues.

By quoting only a part of what I said at a meeting with BEST held at Tucker's Point held on February 9 and omitting the rest he made another attempt to distort the truth.

Here is what I really said, and there were at least ten other witnesses at that meeting to verify this. I said that one good thing undertaken under the previous SDO was the installation of the very expensive tertiary treatment plant for both hotel and its associated housing sewage, because it was the only way to avoid pollution of the underlying cave systems and I was pleased to give credit where due. However, I have not been involved in monitoring the water quality of the caves since it was installed and cannot claim that the water is now “pristine” as he said. In fact, when I tried to make arrangements for cave expert Tom Iliffe to do just that voluntarily while he is in Bermuda the offer was rejected!

What I also said at that meeting, and what was heard by perhaps a thousand other witnesses on last Sunday's walk through, was that the rest of their environmental record was abysmal and that the second SDO, far from saving any surface environmental features, had obliterated them entirely. I went on to say that this observation of what happened before was the basis for my prediction that the present SDO will be equally devastating. In fact I said it would be even more devastating because it was much larger in scale and involved trying to squeeze in building lots on steep forested and cave underlain slopes which are manifestly undevelopable without total destruction of the surface features and this time all in full view from Paynter's Road! As to Mr Trippe's claim that the total footprint of 78 houses would only be an acre or two, that fails completely to take into account the access roads, parking areas, lawn spaces around the houses and maybe even swimming pools! But what really made me flip out was his claim that Stuart Hayward's judgment was being distorted by his emotionalism! I can't think of a cooler headed and more rational guy.

Notwithstanding David Chapman's flattering comments about my reputation as a conservationist, I am confidently prepared to stake that reputation on my sad conviction that if this SDO is approved and a futile attempt made to implement it “to save a hotel” which has already failed, this Island will be committing both environmental and economic suicide. I leave it to the common sense of my fellow Bermudians to judge whose claim is more convincing . A photograph never lies!

DAVID WINGATEAL EASTMOND

Hamilton Parish

Develop or die

March 15, 2011

Dear Sir,

This is my closing remark regarding Tucker's Point. I admire and applaud the dedication that the environmentalists in Bermuda have to protect as much of the Island's natural state as they can. Because of their tireless work the development that must take place in order to keep Bermuda competitive with the rest of the world is done with the environment in mind. This is a good thing. Most environmentalists are warm-hearted people and most would give the shirt off their back, but they are not economists; or if they are then they already own and have developed their portion of the environment and want to keep all others out.

I believe that the force behind the environmentalists movement in Bermuda are people that already own their piece of developed environment and are also financially secure; this is why they care so little about the economic impact that stopping necessary development will have on the rest of the people that does not yet own anything and will have even dimmer prospects of owning anything because of lost or stagnant employment and confidence of investors.

The land in question is private property and is inaccessible to the public at large. It benefits nobody in this state but would provide much needed benefits to Bermuda's economy and reputation if developed. It makes economical sense to develop it. How it is developed, however, must be laid out in black and white and the environmentalists should monitor the development to ensure compliance. Manicured property is more pleasing to the eye than dense bush unless you are an environmentalist and I'm willing to bet that the little piece of their private property is manicured and not covered with bush. Those caves sound magnificent and must not only be protected but made accessible to the public. What good would it do to have such an attraction if the general public cannot go to see it?

The majority of the environmentalist's founders and “grass roots” are secure land owners whose roots are in fertile soil. They must drop their selfish stance and help Bermuda's continued development in an environmentally friendly way instead of just saying no. Bermuda must develop and continue developing or die; and then the environmentalists will have an entire Island covered with bush. But what about the rest of the people?

Devonshire

No longer sustainable

March 9, 2011

Dear Sir,

In July of 2010, at a huge cost in time and money, the Bermuda Development Plan 2008 was approved by the House of Assembly. As an outsider, it appeared to have taken four to five years; those on the inside know that it took much longer. The process involved the hiring of a consultant, the creation of a strategy statement, draft plan, objections and counter-objections, appointment of a tribunal, tribunal hearings, deliberations and recommendations, a ministerial review and, finally, approval by a majority of our representatives in the House and Senate.

To protect and preserve our undeveloped Conservation Lands, the Draft Plan proposed concessions that had to be made, concessions that caused many Bermudians, residents and visitors a huge sense of despair. Buildings in Hamilton, Southside, Dockyard and Residential 1 had to go much higher, lots had to go smaller, lotlines had to be reduced, dense centres of commercial activity had to be created islandwide all a part of the overarching strategy to preserve Bermuda's ever-dwindling cache of green, open space. Bermuda's environmental organisations researched, wrote and presented objections to halt the intensity of development the Draft Plan proposed; a handful of these objections were accepted and written into the Final Plan. Innumerable counter-objections were submitted in response to individual landowners' requests to have the conservation areas on their private properties re-zoned for development. All who were present felt the angst of the Bermudian families who came to present their cases, many because they needed the land to build homes for their children and grandchildren. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of hours and millions of dollars were spent on this very crucial process for determining how our land is to be managed over the next ten to 15 years.

As a presenter and observer at many of the tribunal hearings, I watched the Civil Servants in the Departments of Planning and Conservation Services ardently defend the protections that the Draft Plan put on our Conservation Lands. They used sophisticated GIS images and brought forward experts in the necessary fields to support their arguments. Small concessions were made with private landowners, very small. The department adhered to the Plan's overriding principle of holding on to the ever-dwindling open space left on our Island. I appreciated their commitment to this ideal.

One year later, after months of behind doors negotiations and six to seven hours of “public debate”, 21 individuals and one small, misused clause in our laws have negated, not only the time, money and professionalism of all who were involved in this process planners, conservation officers, consultants, lawyers, NGOs, private citizens, government ministers, department heads, and so on but also, regrettably, participatory democratic principles for which people worldwide are putting their lives at risk.

As a private citizen, I'm able to write this letter and speak out about what has happened here; General Orders prevent our Civil Service from doing the same. I feel compelled to speak out on their behalf at the risk of being dismissed by a senior civil servant whose duty it may be to do so. If the current SDO goes through, theirs will be a difficult job indeed. They will be called upon to participate in the destruction of acres upon acres of the very same lands they and their Plan set out to protect. The misuse of Special Development Orders, as has happened in Bermuda over the last few years, has not only robbed the Bermuda public of its right to determine its future but also has diminished the dignity of the systems and people we have put in place to conduct our affairs.

It's time we recognised that development on the scale proposed by the Tucker's Point Resort is no longer a sustainable environmental, economic or social model for our beautiful Bermuda. As acknowledged by the government's own Sustainable Development Advisors, we have reached the Laws of Diminishing Returns environmentally, economically and socially using this model. Our Government must step to the plate and acknowledge this fact. It must call together whatever creative minds are willing to assist us to create a sustainable future vision for our country. I urge the Senate members to show up on March 18 and stop this SDO. Quo Fata Ferunt isn't working for us any more.

FRANCES MARSHALL

Hamilton Parish

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Published March 17, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated March 17, 2011 at 10:31 am)

Saving the unspoilt

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