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Belize Tourism Industry Association wins case against the Department of the Environment

Justice Courtenay Abel handed down his judgment in the matter of Belize Tourism Industry Association, BTIA, versus the Department of Environment, the National Environmental Appraisal Committee (NEAC), and the developers of Norwegian Cruise Line. Back in 2014, BTIA had filed a claim asking the court for judicial review as it held the view that NEAC had not followed the proper procedures when the project was approved. Back then, NCL attorney, Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay attempted to have the claim thrown out citing that BTIA was not making the necessary steps to advance their case. Courtenay’s attempt was futile and in 2015, Justice Abel heard arguments. After reviewing all submissions, today Justice Abel read out his judgment. Hipoltio Novelo was in court and here is his report.

(Osmany Salas)” This case is/was about the future as the judge himself pointed out. The Chief Environmental Officer pointed out that it was among the top three dredging projects in the country in terms of scale and magnitude; huge so we are also pleased that this was not to be seen purely as an academic exercise, there were major matters of principle that needed to be considered and we’re very pleased about that.”


Godfrey Smith: In any cases brought before the Supreme Court  you throw in a number of points but there’s really one that you’re driving at and they made it clear BTIA that we’re not trying to stop the project. Many people misunderstood that for the duration of the case. In fact when they went to their membership to bring this case the mandate given to the board of BTIA by their membership was go after the procedure, we’re not trying to stop this project. We’re not anti-cruise ship port or whatever it is but we are pro procedure; the environmental laws must be followed. You heard the judge, there were breaches of it. This whole case was about public consultation. The developers put out a document, you all were down south, it was rubbished by everybody down south and they put together substantial addition but didn’t put it back to the public for consultation. If consultation will be meaningful you have to put it back.

Osmany: There’s a huge risk for us to do that if it didn’t go in our favor. BTIA doesn’t have very deep pockets, we have very shallow pockets so for us it was about procedure, about the public having sufficient opportunity, ample opportunity to be consulted and to offer their concerns, their comments and for ample time to be given for the powers that be to consider these comments. We actually had asked for a public hearing that would have been a more formal consultation process where the public would have been a formal part of the decision making process, we didn’t get that but the way this went, the message to DOE and the message to NEAC, Department of the Environment and the National Environmental Appraisal Committee, the message to them was you need to responsibly and fully perform your legal obligations.


Godfrey Smith: The most important thing is sending a message to DOE with that issue of fifty thousand dollars cost to be born. Next time that happens follow the procedure, don’t short circuit the process, no matter how big the developer is, that’s really the point of the whole thing.