Statement by Barbara Conolly, MLA
When I campaigned during the 2017 general elections I asked the people to vote for me because I was willing to do what is right for the benefit of our people and these beautiful Cayman Islands. I have thought long and hard about the various issues surrounding the proposed cruise berthing facility. I have heard from those concerned especially about the potential environmental impact. I have also heard from constituents concerned about traffic congestion in the waterfront area.
I have also witnessed the public dialogue which is clearly very emotive and, in some cases, seems to get very personal. Persons who would otherwise be happy to be friends and family are now being alienated from each other due to their differing opinions on this project.
But this does not have to be our way.
As a representative of the people I stand by my promise to do what is right for the benefit of our people. I have carefully listened to the concerns and made myself aware of the facts so that I can properly address the concerns expressed to me.
Traffic congestion – As more details of the plan can now be revealed without any commercial sensitivities and without any breach of confidentiality, we can now reveal that there will be a large area built within the port area to accommodate all the related traffic dropping off and collecting passengers. This means that the traffic congestion concerns expressed to me will be fully addressed and it’s possible that the situation on the main roads in the waterfront will be even better than it is today.
There appears to be a misconception regarding the number of tourists which will be in the waterfront area on any given day during our high season. Most of the additional passengers will be arriving primarily during our slow months which is July to September on the larger ships. Therefore, while we may see some increase during the high season, we will not be receiving all of these additional passengers during this time as they will be spread out over the other months of the year. Ultimately the Port Authority has full authority over how many ships/passengers can arrive. That control has always been there and will remain in place.
Cost – This project does not pose any risk of over runs which might end up costing the government more money because the contract is a fixed price contract. Any over-run costs will be fully borne by the developers.
In addition, although we will be giving up 2.32 cents from the passenger head tax to support the project, we will have an increase in the number of cruise passengers from 1.9 million to 2.5 million and therefore the overall revenues we receive over the 25 years will actually be more not less. Therefore, the project will not cost the government or public over this 25 year period.
One of the facts that has not been mentioned much is that at the end of the 25 years the people of this country will also own a port facility valued at over 450 million.
Environmental impact – The footprint of the project has been significantly reduced. In fact, the new design now shows that the entire area will be reduced by around 30%. The potential damage to Seven Mile Beach area was also one of the main concerns raised at the very beginning of this proposed project. But we now know that our Seven Mile Beach will not be negatively impacted.
I see my role as an elected member of the legislative assembly as serving the interest of our people. I believe that this project will be in the best long term interests of the country. I know fully well that this project poses political risk but I am willing to do what is right for the people who I serve.
Our government has put pressure on the developers during negotiations to ensure that the project is carried effectively while being environmentally sustainable. Like my other colleagues in the LA I would not support the project if I were not convinced that the mitigation measures and new design is in the best interest of our natural environment.
The proposed cruise berthing facility will create hundreds of new jobs. It will help many smaller local businesses who rely on the cruise industry for their livelihoods.
I will continue to listen to all my constituents on this project. I promise to continue to fight to ensure that any remaining concerns can be addressed in the way that this project is executed to ensure that we will all reap the benefits while minimising the costs and any potential negative impacts.
Barbara Conolly, MLA, George Town South