Published On: Thu, Jun 27th, 2013

“The Road To Economic Recovery, The Oostpunt Scenario”

Dignitaries, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon thank you for coming.

east pointWILLEMSTAD -- I’d like to thank the board of the VBC for the opportunity to do a short introduction about the issues currently regarding Oostpunt.

First, allow me to point out that it’s my first time in front of such a big audience without a judge or lawyers, or mob with guns, so bear with me...

Oostpunt: actually is comprised of 5 plantations owned by the Maal family since the 1870’s. They were used primarily for agriculture, cattle, quarrying and mining and sand dredging.

In 1987, we were approached by the Government to allow a master-planned destination resort. Those plans soon started taking more definite form.

Suddenly however, without any advance evaluation, in 1993 the Island Wide Zoning plan EOP was announced, imposing severe restrictions on Oostpunt.

In the wink of an eye all 4,400 hectares of Oostpunt were declared ‘conservation’ or ‘open land’, prohibiting any development whatsoever.

Since the Government firmly stood by the EOP zoning against all reason, we had no choice but to go to court.

Part of that development is the Atlantis Resort, which now resides in the Bahamas instead of Curacao.

I will spare you the details, intrigues, legal and political battles of more than 20 years.  Suffice to say all verdicts were in our favour.

The court considered in 1999 that the EOP has to be changed allowing development of 50% of the area, to prevent further damages.

Nonetheless, from 1999 it took till 2010 for the government to concede and approve the settlement that includes the partial rezoning of Oostpunt to make 50% developable, while preserving 50% based on actual studies to be done by objective, professional international environmental researchers and planners.

Also 75 prime hectares would be transferred to the government for public housing developments.

This settlement was consequently ratified in AUG 2010 by a vast majority of the Island Council of Curacao in public hearings, and after 10-10-10, also by the Council of Ministers.  It has since been the Basis for the re-zoning procedure of Oostpunt. It still is!

Ladies and Gentleman, “Conservation and preservation” cannot be achieved merely by “ZONING“ an area as such!

You cannot preserve a Rolls Royce, by putting it in a shed on the coast and not touch it, maintain it, or protect it!

Nature, left to its own recourse, will also ruin itself. Even worse, MAN, as part of that “nature” will destroy it even faster.

Oostpunt, and the lop-sided EOP, are clear evidence of this.  The natural richness and potential of Oostpunt since 1993 is under huge stress due to natural deterioration, and rampant illegal practices such as spear fishing, plundering of baby conch, lobsters and the capture of sea turtles and rays, poaching of goats/sheep and donkeys, while a variety of other criminal activities savagely take place in the area, like car theft and stripping, the smuggling of drugs and people, trash dumping, etc.

This destruction can only be stopped by durable and well-balanced responsible development of Oostpunt.

This requires the re-zoning Oostpunt according to logical, objective, professional on – site evaluations taking into consideration all the specific aspects that do merit such.

We sincerely hope that when the EOP is finally changed accordingly, there will still be developers with sufficient financial capacity interested in Curacao and willing take on certain other local factors.

After all, the Maal family are not developers.

We are owners who want logical, objective sustainable guidelines that the future developers will have to adhere to. The fact is that the Maal family for centuries maintained and preserved this area, and never allowed piecemeal or bit-parcelization or undesirable projects.

For instance when in the 60’s & 70’s we were approached  with Government support for projects such as trash incinerators, giant sludge pits and garbage quarries or oil terminal at Hambrak, to name but a few. None of these are desirable or beneficial to either the property or its potential for development, and CERTAINLY not for the surrounding areas and the inhabitants.

The Maal family’s continued efforts and sacrifices resulted in the availability of a huge tract of land, uninhabited, with tremendous potential. A unique opportunity to impose an objective, logical EOP zoning regime, incorporating ALL the criteria the EOP originally included FACILITATING responsible development, NOT blocking all development under the guise of “conservation” only.

Only then can Oostpunt lead “the road to economic recovery of Curacao”, which is ultimately what we are all here for.

It is evident that development of parts if Oostpunt will have many positive effects for the economy and people. These will be elaborated on by the following speakers as it’s their area of expertise.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The fate of the economic recovery of Curaçao is now in the hands of the Government and the Parliament of Curacao.

I wish them wisdom and courage to continue to take the last hurdles to enable the sustainable development of Oostpunt initiated with the agreement of 2010.

I leave you now to Hank de Zeeuw of KPMG, involved on behalf and request of the Government, and Lyongo Juliana on behalf of UNA, to elaborate on how Oostpunt can responsibly be developed to a win-win situation for all, finally allowing it to be part of the economic recovery of Curacao.

Thank you.

Willem Pieter Maal, better known as Willy Maal, represents the sixth generation of the Maal family as the owners of the Oostpunt area. Willy hopes of someday seeing parts of Oostpunt being for a multi-faceted, responsible, sustainable and durable development of a master-planned agricultural, residential, touristic and recreational project, while preserving and maintaining those areas of ecological, environmental, archaeological and historical value and uniqueness. Willy has since 1993 quit his full-time job and devoted all his time to trying to attain this goal, in accordance also to his late father’s desires and intentions. After more than 23 years of fierce legal and political battles, Willy remains hopeful that this will be achieved soon.

Source: News.Caribseek.com

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