Attitudes to protecting St Helena’s environment must change if the island is to prosper, according to Rob Midwinter, director of Enterprise St Helena.
His comment, at the launch of the island’s new National Environmental Management Plan, followed decades of neglect that has seen historic buildings crumble and even the extinction of the St Helena Olive.
He said: “Whilst we are seeking to grow our economy, unless we also seek to change our approach to environmental management, we run the risk of destroying the very product that is ‘Destination St Helena’
“If we are going to have an increase in our population base by attracting Saints to return home, and also an increase in the number of visitors coming to St Helena, we need to ensure that the impact that these increases have on our environment is minimalized.
“We will also need to demonstrate the economic benefits to be gained by local businesses of adopting green practices, reducing waste and also dependence on the unsustainable practices of the past, including the landfill disposal of items that may present recycling opportunities for local business interests.
“However, if we are to encourage investment in such initiatives, we must do so in partnership, not merely between the public and private sector, but as a community, for the betterment of all.
“And not just for the enjoyment of the visitors that we are hoping to attract, but for our own enjoyment and that of the future generations to come.”
The environmental plan (NEMP) was officially launched at the Consulate Ballroom on Tuesday 9 October 2012 – by being ceremonially placed in the hands of Gemma Yon, a member of the island’s youth parliament.
The handover symbolised the document’s importance for the future of the island.
Short speeches were made by Gemma, St Helena National Trust, former councillor Michael Benjamin – who has a recycling business – and the craft charity SHAPE.
Tara Pelembe, head of the Environmental Management Directorate, said people needed to work together to protect the island’s special character: it was “Our Island, Our Environment, Our Responsibility.”