‘What we see is a repeat, or worse, of Castaway Cay’


Deputy Chief Reporter


ACTIVISTS slammed the heads of agreement tabled in Parliament yesterday between Disney Cruise Lines and the government as a realisation of “our worst environmental, economic and societal fears.”

A joint statement from Casuarina McKinney, of BREEF, Sam Duncombe, of reEarth, Joseph Darville, of Save The Bays, and Rashema Ingraham, of Waterkeepers Bahamas, expressed dismay at the deal.

They branded the deal as a “betrayal” that does not seem to have any “real economic opportunities” for Bahamians.

“It is a betrayal of the promises made of the economic future to the people of South Eleuthera, and a betrayal of the very mandate of transparency and openness on which this government was elected,” the activists noted. “Conspicuously absent from the document are the sections enumerating concessions made by the government.”

The document initially disseminated yesterday to the press in the House of Assembly did not contain the concessions granted to Disney. However, when inquiries were made, the full document which outlined concessions was later sent to this newspaper. It is unclear why this occurred.

“What we see described in this HOA, is a high volume, high impact project encompassing not only massive infrastructure, but substantial and irreversible alteration of the natural surroundings at Lighthouse Point,” the joint statement continued. “What we see is a repeat, or worse, of Castaway Cay, where Disney quite literally manufactured an artificial beach, dredged an enormous channel, and turned what used to be a pristine island of stunning beauty into an amusement park that bears virtually no resemblance to the rest of the Bahamas.

“What we see in this HOA is Disney excluding Bahamians from any real economic opportunities as the company stipulates it will not only construct but also operate all dining and beverage, merchandise and retail, spa, aquatics and recreational facilities at Lighthouse Point.

“In this HOA, we are finding out for the first time that Disney will be leasing the seabed for the next 50 years to build a $250-million-dollar pier, a half-a-mile long, which will dominate the view from their proposed national park.

“What we don’t see is a commitment to applying the highest, internationally-recognised environmental standards, independent of corporate interests and ‘cruise port standards.’

“What we don’t see is any assurance of public access and a level economic playing field on which Bahamians can effectively compete for tourist dollars. What we don’t see is any assurance that bringing 12,000 - 20,000 people to one of the most treasured and fragile sites in the Bahamas can create more than 150 jobs, at best.”

The statement also questioned where the protections were for Bahamian entrepreneurs and the environment in the document.

“Now we see why this document was signed in the dead of night, away from the eyes of the press and the Bahamian people at large,” the statement added.