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St Helena Online

The St Helena report and the gap in media

St Helena media, 24 February 2012

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St Helena Independent: Astronomer to ‘audit’ the sky – UK aid to rise to £24.4m – six extra turbines planned – film-maker returns, 50 years on – protection for she-cabbages – Ben Jeffs on ‘authentic’ tin walls and old glass – Devon GP adviser visits – Jamestown in Bloom winners – youth parliament volunteer helps young people find their voice – letter writers protest about Jamestown ‘enhancements’ and Ascension workers’ pensions – columnists sound off on planning controls – St Helena’s international cricketers need more money

Star-gazing tourism is the main item in Vince  Thompson’s column. He tells how an astronomer, Steve Owens, is to visit the island in April to ‘audit’ the night sky, in the hope that St Helena can be promoted as a destination for star-watchers. A plaque to commemorate the island’s links with famous astronomers is also planned (separate story to follow).

Overall UK aid to St Helena will rise to £24.4 million next year, an increase of 13.5%. Grant-in-aid remains level at £12.1 million next year, but there is extra money for health improvements, sheltered housing, education, environmental management, economic growth and infrastructure developments.

The funding also includes fitting out an extra 29 berths on the RMS St Helena. Government income from the island is forecast to rise by 19%, to £11.5 million, reflecting increased investment and private sector growth now the airport construction has begun.

Six extra wind turbines are planned at Deadwood, to reduce demand for diesel to run the power station. A press release says they should meet 10% of the island’s electricity needs. Four of the six generators at the power station are due to be replaced within 12 months, improving efficiency.

Dr Joe Mays, a general practitioner from Crediton, has been visiting St Helena as part of the new NHS Link with health trusts in Devon, in the UK. His role is to see how professionals in Devon can support the health service in St Helena. In the UK, his work includes finding ways to support patients so they do not need to be admitted to hospital. He was hoping to do some surgeries on the island to improve his understanding. He also St Helena might be able to show how the National Health Service in UK could face some of its own challenges.

Film-maker Charles Frater, who shot footage of life on St Helena in 1962, is giving a talk at the museum in Jamestown on 28 April 2012. His footage of the flax industry and audio recordings of musicians on the island ‘continue to serve as an excellent resource for learning’, says an advertisement.

Endemic she-cabbages are to be given protection by St Helena National Trust and the St Helena Nature Conservation Group. Volunteers are asked to meet at noon on 3 March 2012 to clear out weeds, do re-planting, and build a stock-proof fence ‘to help the last remaining she-cabbages at Osbornes, Sandy Bay’.

Cultural heritage – ‘which includes everything from the Georgian locks on the doors in Jamestown to the walls of High Knoll Fort’ – can help attract tourists, says Ben Jeffs, the heritage officer of the St Helena National Trust. Preserving historic details can provide work for island craftsmen, he writes. Educated travellers will seek the authenticity that St Helena buildings have ‘in their historic tin walls, their charcoal ovens, their flagstone floors, and even from historic paint and glass.’ In a separate article, he notes that St Helena has an abundance of old glass windowpanes, made using a pre-1950s glass-blowing technique. ‘People pay hundreds of pounds’ to replace similar glass in other countries.

Jamestown in Bloom was judged to be a success. The winners were: first prize, Desiree Hudson and Valerie Joshua, both of Napoleon Street;  second, Adrian Caswell of China Lane, Patsy Youde of Botanical Gardens and Sylvia Stevens of Market Street; third,  Irene and Donald Harris of Main Street.

Liz Johnson-Idan has been telling her local newspaper in Castle Cary, Somerset (UK) about her work with young people on St Helena, through Voluntary Service Overseas. She has been helping to build up the youth parliament, raising awareness of human rights, and supporting social enterprise, building on 30 years’ experience of working in remote parts of the world. ‘Public speaking and drama are other skills I am helping young people to develop,’ reports ‘Establishing a youth parliament here is a good way of doing that and helping them to find their voice.’

Cliff Huxtable complains in a letter that some elements of the Jamestown Enhancement Plan are inappropriate. He urges islanders to press for a public consultation before changes are made to pavement and road widths. ‘This will clutter the beautiful view of a Georgian town up Main Street from the Arch,’ he says.

R Lawrence complains in a letter that Saints who missed out on a family life to work on Ascension have not enjoyed the same pensions as those who stayed behind and enjoyed the benefits of the money that overseas workers injected into St Helena’s economy. He says he must keep working into his mid-70s.

Julian Cairns-Wicks continues his attack on new planning controls for the island. Writing from his hospital bed, he says: ‘I cannot believe it is right or lawful for short time incomers to be able to come here and willy-nilly carve up the island into a number of different areas, which are then apportioned to other newcomers according to the size of their wallets’ – apparently referring to developers proposing to build the tourist accommodation that has been deemed vital to the island’s economic future.

Vince Thompson takes a more sympathetic view of the official who has been handed a  ‘political hot potato’ in terms of the planning changes required as part of the airport funding. ‘there could easily be someone else doing [the] job who is less sympathetic to St Helena’s particular requirements, less competent and less hard-working.’

A conservation expert with a PhD is wanted on Ascension island for a two-year research contract, to help develop a bio-diversity plan.

In Brussells, St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha were represented at the 10th Overseas Countries and Territories forum of the European Union. On his return, St Helena councillor Tony Green said: ‘Following each presentation it was necessary to make interventions to make sure that our views were put clearly to the 100+ delegates as the situations and circumstances of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha are quite different from many other OCTs.’

St Helena’s cricketers need another £6,000 to fund their first-ever entry in an international tournament. They have already raised £18,000 for the trip to take part in the competition in Johannesburg in April 2012.

Read more in the St Helena Independent

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