House: Bermuda Plan delayed 12 months
The Covid-19 pandemic has made island residents more focused on Bermuda's environment, the Deputy Premier said yesterday.
Walter Roban said: “Over the last three months, and the experience that we all have shared together, I think we are a little bit more sensitive and feel more protective of our natural world.”
The comment came as MPs debated the Development and Planning (Draft Bermuda Plan 2018 Extension) Act 2020 in a virtual session of the House of Assembly.
The Bill provides for the operation of the Draft Bermuda Plan 2018 to be extended for a year, until June 3, 2021.
Mr Roban said that the amendment Bill was “very small and very minor”.
However he added: “I do appreciate that development issues bring about a lot of attention.”
Sylvan Richards, the Shadow Minister of Home Affairs and Environment, said the Opposition supported the extension.
However he questioned if the Covid-19 pandemic was the only reason behind the Bill.
He asked: “Are there any other extenuating reasons for the 12-month extension?”
Mr Richards also questioned what impact the pandemic would have.
He asked: “Is the plan just to forge ahead without taking into account any changes as a result of a Covid-19 future, in terms of planning and development in Bermuda, protecting our open spaces, and so on?”
Kim Swan, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, said the value and importance of open space in Bermuda had “grown exponentially as a consequence of this pandemic”.
He added that the health crisis had heightened the importance placed on Bermuda's natural environment, and that the Bill could provide the opportunity to reflect on how “better utilisation of our environment” could help bolster local food production.
Susan Jackson, the Opposition Whip, said that it was “a little unfortunate” that finalisation of the plan had been delayed.
She added that she worried the extension of the draft plan could make it feel as if “we may be putting the island on hold”.
Ms Jackson added: “I certainly wouldn't want us, in particular around the development of Bermuda, to delay any kind of progress that we might be able to make with our infrastructure.”
Jeanne Atherden, a One Bermuda Alliance backbencher, said it would always be a challenge to balance development, environmental protection and the community.
She added that the time was right for the country to decided “what is most important”.
Ms Atherden said: “You can't have three things being of equal importance — It just doesn't work.
“There is always going to be one of these things which is more important than the other.”
Mr Roban said the preservation of agricultural land was of “great importance” to the Government.
He added that Bermuda was currently only using about half of its 750 acres of land zoned for agriculture.
Mr Roban said: “What we have available, we are still not using to its potential.
“We have areas of land that could potentially be used going into the future to sustain us and our food needs.
“So food security is a big part of this plan.”