JET SKIS: “THE CONS OUTWEIGH THE PROS”

anguillian
By anguillian October 3, 2014 09:17

 

 

The Editorial in The Anguillian last week drew attention to the concerns of the Anguilla Hotel and Tourism Association to the Government’s proposal to repeal the Jet Ski Prohibition Act and, in fact, to make a new provision to legalise the use of jet skis in the island’s waters at four specified locations. One of the first reactions of the general public was that the proposal, which invited the views of the people, only appeared on the Government’s website in the form of a Draft Personal Watercraft (Jet Ski) Policy approved by Executive Council. News about the matter spread quickly however and, within a few days, there was the welcome announcement of a series of public consultations.

The first of them was held at the Central Baptist Church at Rey Hill on Tuesday evening, this week, thus rightly providing for a wider and face to face discussion and airing of opinions led by Mr Foster Rogers, Permanent Secretary, Tourism and Economic Development. Mr Rogers, a seasoned public servant, is to be commended for his calm handling of the consultation and his efforts at maintaining and achieving a congenial and democratic expression of views on what is obviously a controversial subject. His skilful conduct of the proceedings is testament to the hard work of top public servants in his category who, in many instances, actually do the work of their political bosses while being unfairly criticised – or even ostracised – by them. It may have been possible that the church sanctuary also provided a helpful degree of respect but, as Mr Rogers explained, the locations for the consultations were chosen in communities close to the proposed sites for the operation of jet skis – in this case, Rey Hill, near The Forest Bay.

There was an absence of the representative grass root population of the island at the consultation which is perhaps understandable. The attendance of the forty-odd persons represented mainly Anguillians and others involved in one form or another in the tourism industry, tourists with long records of repeat visits to the island, and other persons with particular interest in the economic wellbeing and safety of Anguilla. In a nutshell, the overwhelming views, including those of a number of indigenous Anguillians, were that the Government should reconsider or abandon the proposed policy (and contemplated supporting legislation) to introduce jet skis in Anguilla given the risks of injury and death; the flood of objections and lack of interest from tourists seeking quiet destinations free from noisy jet skis; and the unique nature of Anguilla’s upmarket tourism industry.

In mentioning the above, it is fair to point out that of the forty persons at the consultation, less than five Anguillian young men argued, as the proposed policy does, that there is a need to generate employment on the island; and to have exciting water sports for young and adventurous visitors. Among the counter replies were that very few jobs would be created from the four licences to be granted to operators with little revenue gains to Government. It would be impossible to police the operation of jet skis in Anguilla’s waters and where ever they were permitted to operate would pose a danger to persons by reckless riders; that even if large sums of money were to be made from the operation of this type of water sport, which has been banned in some Caribbean countries, the death of one person (rider or beach user) would outweigh any financial gain; and there was the possibility of legal ramifications resulting in expensive lawsuits and insurance claims against jet ski operators, Government, hoteliers and tour operators facilitating the water sport.
Given the enormity of the fears and opposition expressed by the overwhelming majority of persons, the Chief Minister and Minister of Tourism, and the Government by extension, should feel obliged to carefully re-think the proposed jet ski policy before committing itself to any form of supporting legislation. Certainly, the strong views expressed by those persons have excelled by far those expounded by the Anguilla Hotel and Tourism Association in the recent Open Letter from its President to the Chief Minister. To quote one thoughtful young Anguillian at the consultation, who described herself as open-minded, after summarising the various arguments for and against, as well as expressing her own views, “the cons outweigh the pros”.

anguillian
By anguillian October 3, 2014 09:17

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