NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Time Magazine’s ‘Hero for the Planet’, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. underscored deficiencies in the Disney Lighthouse Point development at a recent conference.
Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and President of Waterkeeper Alliance, spoke to Eyewitness News Online following the “Disney After Dorian” conference held on Monday.
He insisted that Disney is knowingly coming into a country that is “poor and developing”- taking shortcuts that would be illegal in the United States.
“They are not doing an Environmental Impact Statement of the kind they would have to do in the United States. That means doing a transparent exploration of the cost and benefits of the project to the local community,” said Kennedy.
“Disney can come in and make a lot of promises- sprinkle gold dust around tell people ‘we’re going to bring great prosperity’, but when it comes to actually doing it, there’s no guarantee and enforcement.
“The promises, guarantee, and puffery that are now being displayed to the local community; in 99.9%, or, I’d say 100% of cases, none of that comes true.”
Kennedy said: “Show us the money, show us exactly what are the jobs, what are the benefits you’re bringing, what are the protections that you are going to install on the reef, what are the public access that you are going to guarantee.”
Kennedy compared the Lighthouse Point initiative with a past development by Princess Cruises – who “promised jobs and contracts to local vendors”.
He noted that the development is now “a gated community that fences Bahamians off”, and further described the outside of this community as a “ghetto”.
Member of Parliament for South and Central Eleuthera, Stephen ‘Hank’ Johnson, pegged Kennedy as “totally misinformed.”
“Mr. Kennedy was very insulting to Bahamians as well,” Johnson continued.
“The fact of the matter is, he wants to question the Government while in our own country. They need to get the facts together.”
In a recent correspondence, Disney Cruise Line expressed plans to develop less than 20 percent of the Lighthouse Point site and employ sustainable building practices, such as an open-trestle pier to avoid dredging.
Disney also mentioned established environmental monitoring programs that will continue through construction and into operations, and their donation of more than 190 acres of privately-owned land to the Bahamian people.
The company has additionally committed to a multifaceted program that will educate guests, crew members and vendors about the important role they will play in protecting the environment at Lighthouse Point.
Disney Cruise Line purchased the Lighthouse Point property in 2019 and has since signed a Heads of Agreement with the Government. The company submitted the Environmental Impact Assessment in late December.
The document is expected to be posted on the BEST Commission’s website after their feedback is incorporated, and government reviews are complete.
Additional public consultation related to the Environmental Impact Assessment is anticipated as part of the site plan approval process.
According to Disney Cruise Line, construction will begin on the site after the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Plan are accepted by the Government, public consultation has occurred, and all other necessary Government permits and approvals have been granted.