Statement by Honourable Vincent Wheatley, Minister for Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration
During the Sixth Sitting of the First Session of the Fourth House of Assembly of the Virgin Islands
Wednesday 31st July, 2019
Mister Speaker, the Ministry of Natural Resources, Labour and Immigration continues its unwavering efforts to ensure that the young people of this Territory are afforded the opportunity to own a piece of land to build their home. Land ownership engenders a sense of pride and accomplishment and we want to do our best to get the young people of this Territory on the part of wealth creation and building a legacy for future generations. We have approximately six hundred applications on file and we continue to receive more, almost daily. So there is an interest amongst the young in becoming property owners. However, I ask for patience in this matter as this is not a simple and straight forward task, by any stretch of the imagination.
Mister Speaker, the Ministry continues to work with persons who have received letters informing them that they have been awarded a piece of Crown land by Cabinet. Again, we apologize for any delay, but I assure you that we are doing everything possible to issue titles. Based on our current policy to revoke lands that were not paid for, we are in the process of making those lots available to persons who were previously approved by Cabinet. While the general idea is to give as many persons (especially young people) as possible the opportunity for landownership, priority will be given to those that are in a position to qualify at a bank for the loan to do so this decision was on the heal of a number of applications that cannot be satisfied at this time, while at the same time there are persons who were awarded land and have made no attempt to pay for it and this goes as far back as 15 years or more.
Mister Speaker, the Ministry, has been fielding some very complicated land issues, some of which date back forty years and some fifty years ago. The land situation in this Territory is very convoluted and requires and inordinate amount of time to sort out. Be that as it may, we are determined to help the people of this Territory sort out these matters as they tend to get more complicated and less likely to be resolved with each successive generation. These issues span the entire length and breadth of this Territory and we are determined to assist as the people have nowhere else to turn for solution to these vexing issues. We have identified areas in the Registered Land Ordinance that needs some revision; to that end, we have convened a committee that is currently working on those reviews.
Mister Speaker, there are also a number of seabed matters that needs sorting out. And while on this matter of seabed, I am asking persons to refrain from illegally reclaiming the seabed. There is a process to be followed if someone wishes to engage in land reclamation and I am appealing to anyone who is minded to engage in this illegal practice to discontinue. While we have been quite lenient over the years, this will no longer be the case as we intend to hold persons responsible for their actions. In addition to the illegal filling in/reclamation of the seabed, there are persons who are relentless in the efforts to fill in the wetlands/salt ponds. The salt ponds are there for a reason and that is to protect the nearshore as they serve as a filter for the watershed/run off water from the hill side in periods of heavy rains.
Mister Speaker, these land problems, inclusive of reclaimed land and wetland issues, might seem to be of no effect on the surface, but when you delve into them you realize that (1) there are lingering land dispute spanning generations to be sorted out and (2) the illegal reclamation and the filling in of the wetlands continue to negatively impact our natural assets which we depend on for our livelihood.
I thank you.