Honourable Dr. Natalio D. Wheatley
Premier And Minister For
Environment, Natural Resources And Climate Change
At The Fifth Sitting Of The First Session
Of The Fifth House Of Assembly
Tuesday, 31st October, 2023
Development and Implementation of a Crown Land Policy
Madame Speaker, The Virgin Islands has adopted a comprehensive an inclusive approach to the management of Crown lands and has subsequently engage in the development of a Crown Land Policy, which is now out in the public domain for consultation. This policy governs the administration, management, development and use of all Crown land for all purposes, and focuses on strengthening the administration and management of Crown land.
Madame Speaker, the focus of the policy is to establish and implement an enabling framework for the sustainable management and development of the Territory’s Crown land in a manner that takes account of all relevant social, economic and environmental factors and to promote and advance efficient, equitable and balanced national development. The policy also seeks to ensure that the natural environment is protected for the benefit of present and future generations; it also seeks to ensure the conservation of the biodiversity and ecosystem integrity in the development of Crown land, particularly with regards to reclamations, docks, jetties, barge ramps, and other seabed development.
Madame Speaker, this policy also seeks to ensure that the Territory’s unique culture of strong affinity to land is maintained whilst building and maintaining resilience to climate change. The natural resources of this Territory are the common heritage of all citizens, and it is their Constitutional right that such resources are responsibly managed and protected and used in a sustainable manner for the benefit of present and future generations.
Madame Speaker, there are five strategic objectives that we hope to achieve by the development and implementation of this Crown Land policy: (1) ensure that adequate and suitable Crown land is available for Government’s use; (2) facilitate critical infrastructural development; (3) facilitate disposal of Crown land to eligible Virgin Islanders; (4) manage Crown land development, especially in the marine space; and (5) strategically acquire lands, where and when necessary, to ensure that the previously mentioned objectives are met.
Madame Speaker, during the development of this policy, we were careful to address some key issues: (1) Sustainability, which addresses the management of Crown land from an environmental, social, and economic perspective; (2) Land Affordability, which addresses the scarcity of land and the increasingly unaffordable price point for the average Virgin Islander; and (3) Suitability of Lands for Development, which addresses the possibility that certain areas are prone to flooding, landslides, storm surge, sea level rise, and potential impacts from tsunamis, which may not be suitable for development.
Madame Speaker, the introduction of this Crown Land Policy will strengthen the current administrative and management framework relative to Crown lands and the operations surrounding the disposal of Crown lands in the Territory. This initiative will provide greater transparency in the process, where decisions relating to land use will follow a clear set of criteria and a streamlined process.
Madame Speaker, I cannot emphasize enough the need to preserve land for the public interest and to make land accessible to young people and young families, to give them that opportunity to own a part of their legacy as Virgin Islanders and provide avenues for them to create generational wealth. The First-Time Homeownership Programme, imbedded in this policy, seeks to provide affordable lands for Virgin Islanders who do not already own land to facilitate homeownership. Persons may also make applications for Crown land, where available, for the purpose of commercial or agricultural development; these applications will be considered on a leasehold arrangement only, except on Anegada where the Government may dispose of land on a freehold basis to eligible persons.
Madame Speaker, the Constitution Order of the Virgin Islands states that "the people of the Virgin Islands have a free and independent spirit and have developed themselves and their country based on qualities of honesty, integrity, mutual respect, self-reliance and the ownership of the land engendering a strong sense of belonging to and kinship with those Islands."
As Virgin Islanders, your contributions towards shaping the final framework for managing Crown lands is of utmost importance. We, therefore, encourage you to give us your feedback and let your individual and collective opinions be part of the final document. The policy can be found on the Government’s website or you may contact the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change for a copy. Also, a team from the Ministry will accompany me as we move around the Territory with a series of public meetings. So, please come out and have an open discussion with us on this very important document.
Madame Speaker, I would like to inform the public that I will be at the following locations and I am inviting them to come out in their numbers and let us have a fruitful discussion on this proposed policy.
Wednesday 1st November, 2023 Elmore Stoutt High School Lecture Room G12, Road Town from 5:30 p.m. - 7:00p.m.
Friday 3rd November, 2023 - Jost Van Dyke Methodist Annex from 10:30a.m.-12:00 noon.
Saturday 4th November, 2023 - Robinson O'Neal Memorial Primary School from 2:00pm - 4:00p.m. and Vanterpool Administration Building, Virgin Gorda from 4:30p.m. to 6:30p.m.
Sunday 5th November, 2023 - Emile Dunlop Community Centre, Anegada from 3:00 p.m.-4:30p.m.
Monday 6th November 2023 - Francis Lettsome Primary School, East End/Long Look from 5:30 p.m. - 7:00pm.
Tuesday 7th November 2023 – GIS Public Eye at 7:00pm.
Wednesday 8th November 2023 – West End Community Centre from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.
Madame Speaker, I thank you.