Tourism minister Moses Kirkconnell is put under pressure over the port project from someone whom many may consider a surprising source, Prospect MLA and fellow government member Austin Harris.
The Government backbencher raised the heat on the port project Wednesday (8 November) questioning the deputy Premier on the environmental implications and the cost of the cruise berthing and cargo facility.
“Has the ministry been able to mitigate or lessen the environmental impact to Hog Sty Bay subsequent to the Pricewaterhouse Cooper outline business case?” Mr. Harris questioned.
While he commended Mr. Kirkconnell for his hard work, he reminded members of the business case that reads, “the data is insufficient to justify the project in Hog Sty Bay. The damage more than outweighs the benefit from cruise berthing.”
The deputy Premier objected to his quote as he contended, ” I think it is cherry picking the PWC business case, because the final PWC case took into account the increased spend and the environmental impact assessment.”
The minister also reminded members to remember the importance of the cargo aspect of the project.
“The cargo port cannot continue to handle the growing island business that it is seeing with the facility it has there and again with what is happening in the shipping world with larger vessels coming here,” he added.
Minister Kirkconnell said the project cost will be more than $100 million. But he said it’s not government’s bill to foot, since they are seeking a design, finance, build and maintain model for the project.
Opposition MLA Chris Saunders stressed with the track record of large capital investment projects Cayman must be sure about the cruise-berthing and port facility.
“We have more entrepreneurs on the cruise side than on the stayover side, that’s a fact. But at the end of the day we have to make sure we get it right,” he said.
At the end of the day Mr. Harris took a wait and see approach.
“It is a vehicle for economic development that in itself carries its own significant costs, but we wait for the updated OBC. We wait for further details relevant to cost, before we jump to any conclusions,” he said in the LA.
Many of the members eagerly await that information too.
MLA Kenneth Bryan also questioned if there’s a guarantee if coral being relocated to make way for the port will survive. However, his question went unanswered.