Premier promises ‘rethink’ of Tucker’s Point SDO
Government will “have a rethink on some aspects” of the Tucker's Point SDO and are willing to find a “third way that could better represent a win-win position”.
Premier Paula Cox last night said Government had considered comments made by Independent and United Bermuda Party Senators, who expressed opposition to the Special Development Order (SDO) in the Senate debate on Friday.
Mrs Cox said it was a difficult issue and all parties were looking to find a balance between economic growth in the tourism industry and preservation of limited green space.
After nearly four hours debate on Friday, five Senators appeared in favour of the SDO and five against not including Senate President Carol Ann Bassett.
Junior Environment Minister David Burt interrupted proceedings to “rise and report progress”, meaning Government may bring back the SDO at another sitting for the remainder of the debate and a vote, with amendments if necessary.
According to Sen Burt the position was made after liaising with the Premier, Environment Minister Walter Roban, Tourism Minister Patrice Minors and the Senate Government Leader David Burch.
He said the ‘rise and report' allowed “all the parties to reflect and to review their position; putting Bermuda's interests first”.
Opposition Senator Michael Dunkley said on Friday it was vital to “try and find a position we can all cope with.”
“If we can't find that position we are all going to lose, not just Tucker's Point but all of us,” he said.
Katherine Michelmore, the environment spokesperson for the Bermuda Democratic Alliance (BDA), said the decision to “rise and report progress” may have been a move to “save face” in the event of an unfavourable vote.
She said: “I hope that [the move] represents a recognition on behalf of Government that there is much wrong with this SDO and how it has been presented to the public.
“Will the Government continue to purport that it is ‘in the public interest' to sacrifice the environment, or will they look for viable alternative solutions? All of Bermuda needs to be engaged in this discussion over whether we seek short term gain over long term prosperity.”
Last night Mrs Cox pointed out that what took place in the House of Assembly three weeks ago, where 21 MPs voted for and ten against the SDO, was a “stark contrast” to Friday's debate.
She said there was clearly still an “education process” necessary and added: “We need to highlight that in these challenging times it is difficult to identify credible sources of new investment capital; capital that translates into new growth opportunities.
“We need to underscore how essential this requirement is at this time in Bermuda.
“Support of the SDO is an effort by this Government to facilitate the injection of new blood, new life, into what has been an anemic tourism product.
“We believe the public expects us to make the tough calls and it is exactly during times like this when tough choices must be made.”
However, she added that “it cannot be business as usual” and said the Ministry of Business Development and Tourism was designed to strengthen the economy and enhance competitiveness “so that our economy remains healthy and vibrant”.
Mrs Cox said: “We must remember that other investments will be watching how the country approaches this and other moves on the tourism front.
“How we respond to this issue cannot avoid how investor views are impacted concerning Bermuda's receptiveness to innovative methods of reviving tourism.
“However, because this is the Government of the people, lead Ministers have reached out to the key commercial stakeholders and noted there is an opportunity to have a rethink on some aspects. Also considered comments made both by Independent Senators and Opposition members, followed by subsequent informal discussions, demonstrated a willingness to find a third way that could better represent a win-win position.
“Thus dialogue with a purpose and that is mindful of timeliness of conclusions is always an option.”