Fri | Sep 24, 2021

Vaz got poor advice on Holywell lease – caretakers

Published:Wednesday | June 17, 2020 | 12:08 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
Daryl Vaz
Daryl Vaz

THE JAMAICA Conservation and Development Trust (JCDT) has said that Portland Western Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz was ill advised in seeking to obtain a 25-year lease that would have allowed him to construct a private cabin on protected lands in the Blue and John Crow Mountains, a World Heritage Site.

Vaz came public amid outrage after the JCDT, caretakers of the Holywell National Forest Park, raised concerns that the National Land Agency (NLA) was leasing lands within the buffer zone of the Blue and John Crow Mountains lands.

The NLA on Tuesday withdrew the offer to lease the lands for 25 years at $120,000 per annum.

Vaz argued, in a press statement, that the proposed land use was in keeping with the already existing Holywell Park-type cabins, a reference to recreational facilities operated by the JCDT.

Once he became aware of the objection letter from the JCDT to the NLA, on June 11, the minister with portfolio responsibility for the environment said he immediately wrote to the NLA withdrawing his application.

Offers were expected to be deposited at the NLA’s Kingston offices by 1 p.m. on Tuesday and opened 15 minutes later.

In defending his application, Vaz pointed out that there were many leases between the NLA and individuals or companies, including coffee farms/cafés and dwellings in and around Holywell Park, in keeping with terms of the hold he sought on the 7.7-acre property.

But JCDT Executive Director Dr Susan Otuokon charged that the minister got poor advice from the relevant agencies.

Otuokon told The Gleaner that trust’s plans to expand its recreational facilities were linked to the Government’s failure to provide adequate funding for its operations.

“It should be noted that we only receive about 30 per cent of the budget of the National Park and World Heritage Site from the Government of Jamaica,” Otuokon said.

“However, we would want to see partnerships, not individual approaches.”

Any existing leases for Holywell lands were either executed before the gazetting of the National Park in 1993 or without the JCDT’s knowledge, Otuokon said.