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MPOA speech Meeting of the Minds (27 July 2010)

Montserrat Property Owners Association

Good evening friends and thank you for coming out this evening and allowing me to represent the views of the large majority of homeowners.

I heard on the radio this morning that the Chief Minister claimed business owners have been threatened to sign a petition in favour of sand-mining in Foxes Bay or face a boycott by home owners. I would like the Chief Minister to give me the names of these individuals in order that we may address this issue, because we consider intimidation to be unacceptable.

We’ve also heard many rumors about what we homeowners want regarding sand mining.  I’m here to set the record straight, the homeowners support sand mining.  We want Montserrat to independently succeed.  We want prosperity for all Montserratians.  We want good jobs and opportunities for all willing to work for them.  We want to see businesses and foreign investment come here because of the great opportunities Montserrat has to offer.

We want to see tourists, beach bars, and hotels.  We want to see sail boats and yachts, taxi service and car rentals.  We want to see construction of new villas and investment in commercial real estate projects .

We want good schools and roads; we want a breakwater and a city center in Little Bay that would rival Plymouth before the volcano.

We want Montserrat to be vibrant again as it was before.

II.   The industry we do not support…this caption for organization only

But, none of this will happen if the Governments’ short sighted decisions enable a few elite individuals to destroy Montserrat at the expense of all others.

Government is currently saying that sand mining and a residential community are compatible.  They say that with a large sand berm, mining and the residential community can reasonably coexist.  I can assure you this could not be further from the truth.  Statements like this prove to me that either they know nothing about sand mining or they are disingenuous.

I am in the construction industry in the United States and I send my trucks to mining quarries many times a week.

Sand mining is not compatible within ANY residential area, PERIOD.  Government cannot change this fact by recommending ineffective improvements or operating restrictions and claiming this will prevent the devastation that will occur. Sand mining within the lower Belham Valley Residential community will destroy the community and the beach.

The current sand mining plan will allow mining and material processing in the entire Belham Valley with a jetty on Isles Bay Beach that will have several hundred truck loads of material traveling down the valley every day.  The result will be a constant deafening noise from the trucks, loaders and screening plants.  The horns on the loaders and trucks constantly blowing will shatter any type of reasonable existence.  The exhaust belching from this equipment in this residential neighborhood will create a constant foul stench and be sickening to anyone in the area.

Additionally, the excavation, screening, dumping and hauling down the center of the Belham will create huge amounts of dust.  This dust will travel in which ever direction the wind blows.  It won’t stop at Old Towne or Isles Bay; it will be in Friths, Salem, Olveston, Woodlands and beyond.  It will be the same as when the volcano is active – constant dirt and grit everywhere, everyday on your car, roof, plants, floor, appliances and cupboards.  Every time you set your glass down, it will grind against the grit.

I listed what you will smell, feel and hear but what will you see?  First, you will witness the destruction of the most beautiful beach on the island, a black ribbon of sand meeting the sea.  A place enjoyed by young and old, fishermen and tourists, swimmers and strollers.  I see people on the beach every day jogging, walking their dogs, having bonfires and relaxing.  This is also the most popular beaches in Montserrat for fishing.

But, if the jetty is on Isles Bay Beach, what will happen to this recreational area?  There will be buildings to house the customs agents, facilities for the government men monitoring the loading of sand.  The beach will be ruined– covered by concrete and rock, with trucks and equipment spoiling the serene beauty of a special place that should be preserved for all to enjoy.

There will be discarded materials, trash and debris, and the beach will become polluted with diesel fuel and exhaust.  There will be unsightly stockpiles of material awaiting export.

What will happen to the Belham Valley?  Unregulated mining has already shown a small sample of what the effects will be. But if you really want to have a better idea of the end result, just drive over to Trants and see the devastation.  The hillsides are denuded with piles of material scattered haphazardly at many locations.  There has been no effort to do any land reclamation.  There has been no regrading or planting to restore the beauty of the area and stabilize the ground to prevent runoff and erosion.

Then, there is the trash.  Abandoned trucks, disassembled equipment, tires, engine parts and construction materials setting alongside the road and in the bush with no effort made for proper disposal.  Is this what you want for the Belham Valley?

You may ask yourself why I should care?  If the jetty is built on Isles Bay Beach, the dream of Montserrat that I previously spoke of will be gone.  Many villa owners will leave Montserrat because the paradise that we have will be lost.

As a result, they will not employ gardeners and maids. They will not hire pool maintenance or painters, property managers or electricians, plumbers, masons, roofers or tilers. Other businesses will also suffer.  Restaurants and grocery stores will close.  Rum shops, garages, hardware stores, banks, bakeries, fruit stands, hotels, gas stations, real estate, pool supply, and airlines will suffer significantly or close leaving less employment and fewer services on the island for Montserratians.

I have before me a petition signed by  49 business owners employing 168 people who oppose a jetty in Isles Bay because it will hurt their business and potentially destroy them. Nobody has been coerced by us to sign this petition. A large portion of their revenue will disappear with the villa owners.

There are several more business owners that would not sign because they fear reprisal from this Government. Are these businesses and jobs less important than increasing the profits for a few elite individuals?

III.  GOM secrecy

Why hasn’t Government engaged public discussion on the proposed mining plan before today?

Many people we spoke with believed the jetty was going to Foxes Bay as recently as this yesterday.  There have been inquiries to the Chief Minister, the Planning & Development Authority, PWD, and the Governor and each time there was either no response or they would claim the decision had not been made, even though we knew that was probably untrue.

Are these people ashamed of what they are doing and do not want to be held accountable?

Their actions certainly speak louder than their words.  A forthright and transparent government was the goal clearly promoted by the Governor upon his arrival and he could not be farther from that goal.

This is the same goal that the Chief Minister promoted during his election campaign.  Instead, decisions that affect us are being made behind closed doors.  It is obvious that this Government is supporting the preferences of a few elite individuals at the expense of Montserrat as a whole.  Is this what you expect from your elected officials?

IV.  History

In the 1960’s, William Bramble made a decision to market and develop Montserrat using the stable nature of British Law, the safety of the island and the declaration, zoning and plotting of the Beachettes land as safe investments for offshore investors and expatriate retirees.

Soon people began arriving, villas were built, businesses came, infrastructure improved and the unemployment that forced many to leave Montserrat was no more.  Foreign investors and expatriate retirees invested significant sums of money on island because the government protected the property rights and enforced its laws to ensure them.

The current government is ignoring its responsibilities to uphold these assurances and its commitment to property rights and investors.  Illegal mining goes unchecked even after repeated letters to the Chief Minister, the Planning & Development Authority, PWD, and the Governor.  The Physical Planning Act requires environmental studies, thorough assessment and consideration of impacts on existing development, proper public meetings, and land use approvals, yet the mining continues without having any of the necessary studies, assessments, meetings or approvals for legal operation.

Again, you may ask why does this matter to me?  It matters because no foreign investor or expatriate retiree is going to build a hotel, build offices in downtown Little Bay, build a new villa or lend money for any project on island IF the Government is not trustworthy and does not protect property investments or uphold property rights and assurances.

V.  Valuation

There are over 500 homes and villas on Montserrat in the Beachettes area with varying degrees of value but the average is at least $600,000 EC bringing the total value of 500 homes and villas to more than $300 million EC.

If the jetty goes to Isles Bay and mining is allowed within the lower Belham Valley residential area, the value of all homes on island will diminish because investors will have no faith in Governments’ commitments and assurances towards them.

The villas near the valley will diminish in value as much as 70% and even the villas and homes farther away will diminish by as much as 30%. That is a property value loss in excess of $100 million EC that will happen almost instantly and will affect both Montserratians and expats and this figure doesn’t include the massive drop in the value of building lots.

This sacrifice in property values will be made for an industry that is expected to produce only $22 million EC in present value benefit over the next 10 years, and that is the best case scenario documented by the OPML study commissioned by DFID.

Is there any logic behind that decision?

The Chief Minister and the Governor are both economists and I defy them to explain the rationale of sacrificing over $100 million EC in assets so that they may have a chance of getting $22 million EC in return.  In addition to the devaluation of the home prices there will be an $11 million EC loss in tourism dollars.  $11 million EC in Montserration employment and business income that will be sacrificed to increase the profits for a few elite individuals, potentially gone forever.

These figures are documented in the OPML study as well.   Is it your job or your business that will be sacrificed so that an elite few can prosper?

VI.  Disasters

Disasters of the recent past in Montserrat are well documented.

From Hurricane Hugo in 1989 to the volcanic crisis beginning in 1995 and continuing to the present day, life has been hard on Montserrat and its people.  But, after each disaster Montserratians showed their resolve and rebuilt their lives because this is the place they want to be.

It may have been easier to go to England and start a new life, but you didn’t go because you chose to stay in the land you love.  You saw the opportunity to still have a life in Montserrat.

If the Isles Bay jetty is built, and unregulated mining continues in the lower Belham Valley residential area, opportunities for Montserratians will disappear.

This government sponsored disaster will have a negative effect that the natural disasters never had. After previous disasters, each time the residents returned to and repaired their villas.  But if the Isles Bay jetty and lower Belham Valley mining plan are enacted, many of the residents will not return because of the clear contravention of personal property rights, and there will be no new buyers to replace them. Government should be adding opportunity, not destroying it.

VII.  Best solution

I’m sure many of you are asking yourselves, “I thought you said you support sand mining?”

We do support sand mining and there is a solution that is clearly in the best interest of Montserrat.

It is a plan that the Chief Minister and the Governor once publicly supported.  A plan that makes the greatest financial benefit for all of Montserrat.  A plan that would allow the current government to show that they have the vision for the path forward in creating future success in Montserrat rather than lining the pockets of a few elite individuals.  That solution is to place the mining sites above the Belham Bridge and truck to a jetty in Foxes Bay.

Benefit

The plan, restricting mining to the upper Belham River and trucking to a Foxes Bay jetty may provide a lower return for the owners of sand mining companies but it clearly provides the most benefit to Montserrat.

According to the OPML study, the 10 year present value benefit of the Foxes Bay plan is $27 million EC.  The benefit from the Isles Bay plan, with unrestricted sand mining  in the valley, is only $22million EC.  That’s $5 million EC less.  Additionally, the Foxes Bay plan does not devastate the lower Belham Valley residential area, nor the $11 million EC in employment and income this area provides to Monterratians and their businesses.

Clearly this example shows which model is best for Montserrat.  27 million dollars of net revenue is certainly better than 22 million dollars of net revenue.  The Isles Bay plan is only in the best interest of a few individuals that do not have Montserrat’s best interest in mind.

Best solution continued…

Why would Government support a plan that destroys $11 million EC in employment and business income when there is a better alternative?

If you listen to the rhetoric being put forth about the Foxes Bay plan,  by the Government, they make this option sound almost impossible, but let me give you the facts.

Number One:  they say a jetty in Foxes Bay is too expensive to build.  The conditions at the south end of Isles Bay Beach and the north end of Foxes Bay Beach are similar so that theory doesn’t hold water.  In fact the north end of Foxes Bay Beach has the least risk to sedimentation and lower maintenance requirements.

Number Two:  the government says the cost of a road to Foxes Bay will be far greater than a road down the center of the Belham Valley.  The road through Delvins and into Foxes Bay is still mostly intact.  The Chief Minister himself is on record stating that with a few culvert pipes and local materials, the sand miners themselves can repair the road with the assistance of Public Works.  This is also confirmed by a past DFID Engineering Sector Manager for Montserrat, who specifically analyzed Foxes Bay as a viable solution.

A report produced by Halcrow this past winter stated a new road to Foxes Bay would cost 1.5 million dollars.  That amount assumes they are going to build a fully improved road with a base, sub base, and double surface dressing.  Such a road is overkill for what is essentially construction traffic.  Ironically, the road currently proposed by Government in the Belham is merely dirt and sand.

What is the cost of the Belham Valley road?  It would seem to be very little.  As with many things, not all is as it appears.

The current plan is to clear a path in the Belham Valley grading the rock and sand so the trucks can travel over it.  Hundreds of truckloads, traveling the same dirt and sand track every day will create an endless row of repetitive bumps that will require constant grading. It will require constant maintenance even when the valley is dry, but what happens when it rains? As we all know the Belham Valley has many lahars each year. A few times a year there are torrential flows that fill the valley and roll boulders like they are marbles. On a more regular basis, there are smaller flows that carry sand and silt and cut new paths through the valley, effortlessly redirecting the channel.

When was the last time that you saw lahars in Foxes Bay?…..  The director of the MVO stated that the topography of Foxes Bay prevents lahars there.  It is misleading to claim a fully improved road is necessary for the route to Foxes Bay and ignore the reality of the problems of maintaining access in the lower Belham Valley.

Conclusion

Naturally, we are all in favor of expanding the financial opportunities for Montserrat.  We can all agree that sand mining can be one of these opportunities.

But when a proposed plan benefits a few elite individuals at the expense of all others, then rest assured, we shall pursue all avenues to protect legal rights.

There is a clear choice here that provides the most benefit to Montserrat, for employment, businesses and property owners, and that is to place the mining sites above the Belham Bridge and truck to a jetty in Foxes Bay.  This plan benefits Montserrat the most and this is the plan we support.

Thank you for this opportunity to provide our point of view. Thank you for listening to me.

 

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

Montserrat Property Owners Association

Good evening friends and thank you for coming out this evening and allowing me to represent the views of the large majority of homeowners.

I heard on the radio this morning that the Chief Minister claimed business owners have been threatened to sign a petition in favour of sand-mining in Foxes Bay or face a boycott by home owners. I would like the Chief Minister to give me the names of these individuals in order that we may address this issue, because we consider intimidation to be unacceptable.

Insert Ads Here

We’ve also heard many rumors about what we homeowners want regarding sand mining.  I’m here to set the record straight, the homeowners support sand mining.  We want Montserrat to independently succeed.  We want prosperity for all Montserratians.  We want good jobs and opportunities for all willing to work for them.  We want to see businesses and foreign investment come here because of the great opportunities Montserrat has to offer.

We want to see tourists, beach bars, and hotels.  We want to see sail boats and yachts, taxi service and car rentals.  We want to see construction of new villas and investment in commercial real estate projects .

We want good schools and roads; we want a breakwater and a city center in Little Bay that would rival Plymouth before the volcano.

We want Montserrat to be vibrant again as it was before.

II.   The industry we do not support…this caption for organization only

But, none of this will happen if the Governments’ short sighted decisions enable a few elite individuals to destroy Montserrat at the expense of all others.

Government is currently saying that sand mining and a residential community are compatible.  They say that with a large sand berm, mining and the residential community can reasonably coexist.  I can assure you this could not be further from the truth.  Statements like this prove to me that either they know nothing about sand mining or they are disingenuous.

I am in the construction industry in the United States and I send my trucks to mining quarries many times a week.

Sand mining is not compatible within ANY residential area, PERIOD.  Government cannot change this fact by recommending ineffective improvements or operating restrictions and claiming this will prevent the devastation that will occur. Sand mining within the lower Belham Valley Residential community will destroy the community and the beach.

The current sand mining plan will allow mining and material processing in the entire Belham Valley with a jetty on Isles Bay Beach that will have several hundred truck loads of material traveling down the valley every day.  The result will be a constant deafening noise from the trucks, loaders and screening plants.  The horns on the loaders and trucks constantly blowing will shatter any type of reasonable existence.  The exhaust belching from this equipment in this residential neighborhood will create a constant foul stench and be sickening to anyone in the area.

Additionally, the excavation, screening, dumping and hauling down the center of the Belham will create huge amounts of dust.  This dust will travel in which ever direction the wind blows.  It won’t stop at Old Towne or Isles Bay; it will be in Friths, Salem, Olveston, Woodlands and beyond.  It will be the same as when the volcano is active – constant dirt and grit everywhere, everyday on your car, roof, plants, floor, appliances and cupboards.  Every time you set your glass down, it will grind against the grit.

I listed what you will smell, feel and hear but what will you see?  First, you will witness the destruction of the most beautiful beach on the island, a black ribbon of sand meeting the sea.  A place enjoyed by young and old, fishermen and tourists, swimmers and strollers.  I see people on the beach every day jogging, walking their dogs, having bonfires and relaxing.  This is also the most popular beaches in Montserrat for fishing.

But, if the jetty is on Isles Bay Beach, what will happen to this recreational area?  There will be buildings to house the customs agents, facilities for the government men monitoring the loading of sand.  The beach will be ruined– covered by concrete and rock, with trucks and equipment spoiling the serene beauty of a special place that should be preserved for all to enjoy.

There will be discarded materials, trash and debris, and the beach will become polluted with diesel fuel and exhaust.  There will be unsightly stockpiles of material awaiting export.

What will happen to the Belham Valley?  Unregulated mining has already shown a small sample of what the effects will be. But if you really want to have a better idea of the end result, just drive over to Trants and see the devastation.  The hillsides are denuded with piles of material scattered haphazardly at many locations.  There has been no effort to do any land reclamation.  There has been no regrading or planting to restore the beauty of the area and stabilize the ground to prevent runoff and erosion.

Then, there is the trash.  Abandoned trucks, disassembled equipment, tires, engine parts and construction materials setting alongside the road and in the bush with no effort made for proper disposal.  Is this what you want for the Belham Valley?

You may ask yourself why I should care?  If the jetty is built on Isles Bay Beach, the dream of Montserrat that I previously spoke of will be gone.  Many villa owners will leave Montserrat because the paradise that we have will be lost.

As a result, they will not employ gardeners and maids. They will not hire pool maintenance or painters, property managers or electricians, plumbers, masons, roofers or tilers. Other businesses will also suffer.  Restaurants and grocery stores will close.  Rum shops, garages, hardware stores, banks, bakeries, fruit stands, hotels, gas stations, real estate, pool supply, and airlines will suffer significantly or close leaving less employment and fewer services on the island for Montserratians.

I have before me a petition signed by  49 business owners employing 168 people who oppose a jetty in Isles Bay because it will hurt their business and potentially destroy them. Nobody has been coerced by us to sign this petition. A large portion of their revenue will disappear with the villa owners.

There are several more business owners that would not sign because they fear reprisal from this Government. Are these businesses and jobs less important than increasing the profits for a few elite individuals?

III.  GOM secrecy

Why hasn’t Government engaged public discussion on the proposed mining plan before today?

Many people we spoke with believed the jetty was going to Foxes Bay as recently as this yesterday.  There have been inquiries to the Chief Minister, the Planning & Development Authority, PWD, and the Governor and each time there was either no response or they would claim the decision had not been made, even though we knew that was probably untrue.

Are these people ashamed of what they are doing and do not want to be held accountable?

Their actions certainly speak louder than their words.  A forthright and transparent government was the goal clearly promoted by the Governor upon his arrival and he could not be farther from that goal.

This is the same goal that the Chief Minister promoted during his election campaign.  Instead, decisions that affect us are being made behind closed doors.  It is obvious that this Government is supporting the preferences of a few elite individuals at the expense of Montserrat as a whole.  Is this what you expect from your elected officials?

IV.  History

In the 1960’s, William Bramble made a decision to market and develop Montserrat using the stable nature of British Law, the safety of the island and the declaration, zoning and plotting of the Beachettes land as safe investments for offshore investors and expatriate retirees.

Soon people began arriving, villas were built, businesses came, infrastructure improved and the unemployment that forced many to leave Montserrat was no more.  Foreign investors and expatriate retirees invested significant sums of money on island because the government protected the property rights and enforced its laws to ensure them.

The current government is ignoring its responsibilities to uphold these assurances and its commitment to property rights and investors.  Illegal mining goes unchecked even after repeated letters to the Chief Minister, the Planning & Development Authority, PWD, and the Governor.  The Physical Planning Act requires environmental studies, thorough assessment and consideration of impacts on existing development, proper public meetings, and land use approvals, yet the mining continues without having any of the necessary studies, assessments, meetings or approvals for legal operation.

Again, you may ask why does this matter to me?  It matters because no foreign investor or expatriate retiree is going to build a hotel, build offices in downtown Little Bay, build a new villa or lend money for any project on island IF the Government is not trustworthy and does not protect property investments or uphold property rights and assurances.

V.  Valuation

There are over 500 homes and villas on Montserrat in the Beachettes area with varying degrees of value but the average is at least $600,000 EC bringing the total value of 500 homes and villas to more than $300 million EC.

If the jetty goes to Isles Bay and mining is allowed within the lower Belham Valley residential area, the value of all homes on island will diminish because investors will have no faith in Governments’ commitments and assurances towards them.

The villas near the valley will diminish in value as much as 70% and even the villas and homes farther away will diminish by as much as 30%. That is a property value loss in excess of $100 million EC that will happen almost instantly and will affect both Montserratians and expats and this figure doesn’t include the massive drop in the value of building lots.

This sacrifice in property values will be made for an industry that is expected to produce only $22 million EC in present value benefit over the next 10 years, and that is the best case scenario documented by the OPML study commissioned by DFID.

Is there any logic behind that decision?

The Chief Minister and the Governor are both economists and I defy them to explain the rationale of sacrificing over $100 million EC in assets so that they may have a chance of getting $22 million EC in return.  In addition to the devaluation of the home prices there will be an $11 million EC loss in tourism dollars.  $11 million EC in Montserration employment and business income that will be sacrificed to increase the profits for a few elite individuals, potentially gone forever.

These figures are documented in the OPML study as well.   Is it your job or your business that will be sacrificed so that an elite few can prosper?

VI.  Disasters

Disasters of the recent past in Montserrat are well documented.

From Hurricane Hugo in 1989 to the volcanic crisis beginning in 1995 and continuing to the present day, life has been hard on Montserrat and its people.  But, after each disaster Montserratians showed their resolve and rebuilt their lives because this is the place they want to be.

It may have been easier to go to England and start a new life, but you didn’t go because you chose to stay in the land you love.  You saw the opportunity to still have a life in Montserrat.

If the Isles Bay jetty is built, and unregulated mining continues in the lower Belham Valley residential area, opportunities for Montserratians will disappear.

This government sponsored disaster will have a negative effect that the natural disasters never had. After previous disasters, each time the residents returned to and repaired their villas.  But if the Isles Bay jetty and lower Belham Valley mining plan are enacted, many of the residents will not return because of the clear contravention of personal property rights, and there will be no new buyers to replace them. Government should be adding opportunity, not destroying it.

VII.  Best solution

I’m sure many of you are asking yourselves, “I thought you said you support sand mining?”

We do support sand mining and there is a solution that is clearly in the best interest of Montserrat.

It is a plan that the Chief Minister and the Governor once publicly supported.  A plan that makes the greatest financial benefit for all of Montserrat.  A plan that would allow the current government to show that they have the vision for the path forward in creating future success in Montserrat rather than lining the pockets of a few elite individuals.  That solution is to place the mining sites above the Belham Bridge and truck to a jetty in Foxes Bay.

Benefit

The plan, restricting mining to the upper Belham River and trucking to a Foxes Bay jetty may provide a lower return for the owners of sand mining companies but it clearly provides the most benefit to Montserrat.

According to the OPML study, the 10 year present value benefit of the Foxes Bay plan is $27 million EC.  The benefit from the Isles Bay plan, with unrestricted sand mining  in the valley, is only $22million EC.  That’s $5 million EC less.  Additionally, the Foxes Bay plan does not devastate the lower Belham Valley residential area, nor the $11 million EC in employment and income this area provides to Monterratians and their businesses.

Clearly this example shows which model is best for Montserrat.  27 million dollars of net revenue is certainly better than 22 million dollars of net revenue.  The Isles Bay plan is only in the best interest of a few individuals that do not have Montserrat’s best interest in mind.

Best solution continued…

Why would Government support a plan that destroys $11 million EC in employment and business income when there is a better alternative?

If you listen to the rhetoric being put forth about the Foxes Bay plan,  by the Government, they make this option sound almost impossible, but let me give you the facts.

Number One:  they say a jetty in Foxes Bay is too expensive to build.  The conditions at the south end of Isles Bay Beach and the north end of Foxes Bay Beach are similar so that theory doesn’t hold water.  In fact the north end of Foxes Bay Beach has the least risk to sedimentation and lower maintenance requirements.

Number Two:  the government says the cost of a road to Foxes Bay will be far greater than a road down the center of the Belham Valley.  The road through Delvins and into Foxes Bay is still mostly intact.  The Chief Minister himself is on record stating that with a few culvert pipes and local materials, the sand miners themselves can repair the road with the assistance of Public Works.  This is also confirmed by a past DFID Engineering Sector Manager for Montserrat, who specifically analyzed Foxes Bay as a viable solution.

A report produced by Halcrow this past winter stated a new road to Foxes Bay would cost 1.5 million dollars.  That amount assumes they are going to build a fully improved road with a base, sub base, and double surface dressing.  Such a road is overkill for what is essentially construction traffic.  Ironically, the road currently proposed by Government in the Belham is merely dirt and sand.

What is the cost of the Belham Valley road?  It would seem to be very little.  As with many things, not all is as it appears.

The current plan is to clear a path in the Belham Valley grading the rock and sand so the trucks can travel over it.  Hundreds of truckloads, traveling the same dirt and sand track every day will create an endless row of repetitive bumps that will require constant grading. It will require constant maintenance even when the valley is dry, but what happens when it rains? As we all know the Belham Valley has many lahars each year. A few times a year there are torrential flows that fill the valley and roll boulders like they are marbles. On a more regular basis, there are smaller flows that carry sand and silt and cut new paths through the valley, effortlessly redirecting the channel.

When was the last time that you saw lahars in Foxes Bay?…..  The director of the MVO stated that the topography of Foxes Bay prevents lahars there.  It is misleading to claim a fully improved road is necessary for the route to Foxes Bay and ignore the reality of the problems of maintaining access in the lower Belham Valley.

Conclusion

Naturally, we are all in favor of expanding the financial opportunities for Montserrat.  We can all agree that sand mining can be one of these opportunities.

But when a proposed plan benefits a few elite individuals at the expense of all others, then rest assured, we shall pursue all avenues to protect legal rights.

There is a clear choice here that provides the most benefit to Montserrat, for employment, businesses and property owners, and that is to place the mining sites above the Belham Bridge and truck to a jetty in Foxes Bay.  This plan benefits Montserrat the most and this is the plan we support.

Thank you for this opportunity to provide our point of view. Thank you for listening to me.