Falklands : Public Meeting Report (21/08/07)
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 23.08.2007 (Article Archived on 06.09.2007)
A full report on Tuesday's public meeting follows.
PUBLIC MEETING REPORT (21/08/07)
By J. Brock (FINN)
A public meeting took place in the Court and Council Chamber of the Town Hall at 1700hrs on Tuesday, 21 August 2007. Present were Councillors Stevens, Cockwell, Hansen, Rendell and Clausen. Councillor Summers chaired the meeting.
(Replacement of culverts)
Former Councillor Mr. Eric Goss had raised several questions for councillors including the first subject – the replacement of camp road culverts. Mr. Goss had mentioned that other steel products, such as old steel drums, had been successfully used as make-shift culverts. Councillor Cockwell explained that bacteria had weakened the steel in the culverts that were being replaced and that only after a few years after installation they had to be replaced with bacteria-resistant PVC culverts. Mr. Goss asked if there was a special coating that could be put on the culverts and the answer was the best way to deal with the problem was to replace the culverts with something that was not prone to the bacteria.
(Public Jetty car-park)
A member of the public brought up the protection of the surface at the Public Jetty Car-park. He was concerned that joy riders could do doughnuts in the area and ruing the surface. Councillor Summers mentioned that the sea wall was going to be built up – re-faced - to take tenders from cruise ships and it would be best to tarmac the car-park after the heavy machinery needed to do the work was removed. It will take time to re-surface the car park as the foundations have to be suitable for tarmac. The design of the car-park is also under consideration.
Cllr Summers indicated that the car-park was part of a larger Tourism project to assess what kind of plan would be needed for the industry. Funds would not be released until a plan is put forward for the developments the industry wants. It is believed they are doing this and it won’t be long before the plan comes up for discussion. This is left to the Tourist Board until the plan is complete. An estimate of returns is also expected and councillors attending the strategy meeting are happy with progress thus far. Putting forward the justification to spend is an essential part of the process though Councillor Summers said that not all projects required justification but that expedience meant some projects had to go forward without a complete reckoning.
It was obvious that those responsible for the assets were to come up with a plan to deal with them. This is expected to come to fruition sooner rather than later. Councillor Stevens mentioned that the Tourism industry was working for a long time without management. Councillor Summers said that the progress would be reviewed on a regular basis in conjunction with developing a national strategy for tourism but, he added, you have to start somewhere. There could be another committee that integrated the Ferry and FIGAS and how they fit in with tourism.
Ex-Councillor Goss then insinuated that FIG was throwing money at the abattoir and Councillor Summers mentioned that the EU, the US and Canada also subsidised their agriculture industries. He mentioned that for the £600,000.00 given to FIMCO, the company gave away to the community £1.1 Million in goods and services, so the company was benefiting the community and not just on the take. There is a public plan available for all to read that shows how the Abattoir hopes to break even in 3 or 4 years. Cllr Summers says he is happy to support the Abattoir but not just to give them money each year but to see improvements in the type of animals, the number of animals, and a reasonable market price. There will be serious questions if the market collapses or if farmers chose not to participate by sending their animals to the Abattoir.
Mr. Goss then brought up the decline in the sheep population and the fact that there are no sheep on islands where there were up to 8,000 sheep. Councillor Summers mentioned that due to private ownership and a different focus there were no sheep on some islands like New Island and Weddell Island. Cllr Summers also said that there is a major shift in flock structures that corresponds with diversification from the wool to the meat industry. Instead of keeping older sheep for their wool, younger ewes are kept for breeding purposes. Cllr Hansen said that last season was not a good lambing season. Lambing percentages had less of an affect if there were a larger number of sheep. Nonetheless, the percentages needed to be better. This would help keep sheep numbers stable.
Cllr Clausen answered Mr. Goss’ next question by saying that it takes 50 years to get results if un-crushed calcified seaweed is put on a field. If it is crushed it works much faster. Mr. Goss said he knew the material also had to be baked to help release17% more nutrient into the soil.
(Public Money and Private Business)
A member of the public said that all this seemed like spending £6.00 just to put £3.00 in someone’s pocket. Councillor Summers mentioned that in future the subsidy to FIMCO could be reduced to£300,000.00 and that there were issues with using government money for private enterprise. This might not be his view on everything. Councillor Clausen mentioned that the PIP scheme should not last for a long time but it should help to change the meat industry to the state where PIP is no longer needed. Councillor Stevens mentioned that people are thinking of diversifying and Councillor Hansen added that it was important to give older farmers encouragement to change and go into other businesses. Risks must be taken with a view to realising EU prices for a farmer’s products. Councillor Summers said that there is no need to run sheep on a farm if no money is made from them.
(Living beyond our means)
Another member of the public had spoken wit an economist who was sure the government was spending money unwisely. Councillor Clausen said that it would be difficult but government wants to operate and not rely on Illex income. Cllr Summers mentioned that our income has been relatively flat over the past 15 years. We used to get £15Million on Illex and now it’s £6 Million. There are other industries that could pull in money such as hydrocarbons and tourism. The economy isn’t out of control but it would be nice to have a surplus of £3Million. Savings can be made by an integrated transport system, like FIGAS and the Ferry. Perhaps the subsidy for FIGAS could also go towards tourism and the ferry. As for FIMCO, they need a shot to help the Camp economy. These questions, however, need to be put to Council. Councillor Stevens wanted to see positive investment for Camp and the Ferry would be one item as well as tourism He mentioned working in IT but Councillor Clausen mentioned that IT infrastructure had to be upgraded if anyone would make a go of it in Camp. Infrastructure, said Councillor Stevens, had to be upgraded to make tourism in Stanley and in camp more attractive.
Integrated with the economy is the FIPASS replacement. A report is due to be released. The port infrastructure needs a long-term solution.
Mr. Goss asked when the roads would be designated as roads. Councillor Cockwell said there had been proposals to designate the roads but there were issues such as insurance and what to do when a road goes through someone’s property. The designation process is on-going. Mr Goss said it would be a great benefit to the farm if tax money would be used to maintain the road. Another member of the public mentioned that the road from the Beaver Hanger to Moody Brook needs to be upgraded. Councillor Cockwell said it was on the programme.
A member of the public asked who could own land in the Falklands. Councillor Summers said there was a Land, Non Residence Ordinance and that people had to demonstrate the use and economic purpose for the land. It was not thought good to have absentee landlords.
(Dem dry bones)
A member of the public asked about the sheep and cattle bones that had been thrown over the cliff at Port Harriet. Councillor Summers mentioned it was not cost effective to run the incinerator and that if anyone wanted to go into business making fertiliser out of the bones and/or waste animal products from the Abattoir, they were welcome to it.