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Crown land: What to do?


Published: May 09, 2013

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Crown land, as the name suggests, is land in the property of the state, which is responsible for managing and protecting it.  At last estimate there were 2.5 million acres of Crown land, of which 900,000 acres comprise wetlands.  That leaves roughly 1.9 million available for use.

The issue of proper management of Crown land has been kicked around and often seen as shrouded in mystery and mistrust.  Discussion of Crown land management almost reads like a who-done-it suspense thriller.  Like readers, residents are left wondering who got the land and why.

Successive governments have used public land entrusted to them and handed it over to foreign investors, some with ‘pie-in-the-sky’ developments that seldom materialize; while Bahamians whose plan it is to farm the land, divert and instead ravage the land selling it off for fill.  There seems to be no penalty for anyone, foreign or local, who does not deliver on the Crown land development plans promised.

It is well known that past transactions went by favor depending who you were and which political party you supported, including former officials of Lands and Surveys receiving large tracts of land while they were in office and family and friends benefiting, as have prominent politicians.

The question arises: Were there sufficient checks and balances and oversight in past questionable land deals?  Surely not.

In July 2009, a House select committee was appointed to inquire into all matters concerning the disposition of all publicly-owned lands.  Its findings were released in a report in 2010, indicating that by unanimous consent, it was agreed that there ought to be at the very least frank and public disclosures to the decisionmakers in the process of applications for Crown land, so as to ensure transparency.

Sitting on that committee was Chairman Fred Mitchell, member of Parliament for Fox Hill; former Golden Isles Member of Parliament Charles Maynard; Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador Member of Parliament Philip Brave Davis; former Member of Parliament for Bamboo Town Branville McCartney, and former Kennedy Member of Parliament Kenyatta Gibson.

I agree with the call to make public all applications of persons applying for Crown land and its intended use to be published on the relevant government website, as well as in newspapers along with the decision of the authorities who granted approval.

With land prices being what they are and no indication that prices will go down, the proper utilization of Crown land will give young Bahamians and the next generation the opportunity to develop our country.

It appears that more non-Bahamians are squatting on land and huge neighborhoods are being developed, with the authorities doing very little to address the problems created by these illegally erected communities.

Land used for the right purposes can create enormous opportunities for our people, especially the young and future generation of Bahamians.  Let’s protect this heritage of ours and ensure it’s made available to all Bahamians regardless which political party you belong to.

• William Wong is the president of Wong and Associates Realty.  He was also a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and the Bahamas Real Estate Association.  Questions or comments can be emailed to William@wongsrealty.com.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 May 2013 15:57

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