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INTERVIEW with Governor Michael Clancy
for Friday 6th July 2007 for The St Helena Independent
On Sunday, the visiting Journalist Jeff Barbee met with His Excellency, Governor Michael Clancy who explained that his job is to ensure good governance on the island and also to represent the island to the UK
and similarly put UK policies to the St Helena Government. Jeff asked what role the Governor was playing in Conservation issues on
St Helena. “We all play an active role”, the Governor said – “St Helena Government itself is very interested, the UK Government sponsors various projects [such as] an invasive species project.
Invasive species are one of the things the island is cursed with. People have introduced different species either intentionally or unintentionally over the years. It’s a matter of now trying to get back the native environment; flora and fauna. What we are looking for is the airport
development to be done sympathetically with the environment.
So that’s a big feature for us, building an airport that has a run way of
2 kilometres long, done in an area of semi-arid nature but with lots of bio-diversity in terms of spiders out there. So that’s a big feature to ensure that the massive logistic exercise doesn’t impact adversely on that environment and particularly our native bird, the wirebird.” “I am also personally very interested in conservation”, the Governor said. “I go walking regularly. It is partly the matter of keeping the paths open and also trying to encourage more of an interest with the population on the island, not just in conservation but enjoying everything nature has to offer.”
One of the major conservation projects on the Island is the Millennium Forest. “It is a marvellous project”, Governor Clancy said. “It started in 2000 and is really trying to recapture and reforest the island with
some of the native species, particularly gumwoods. It is in a fairly semi-arid area and there is a lot of planting going on with a lot of trees also being sponsored. If you are visiting you can perhaps see it beginning to
take shape, the trees are about 4-5 feet high at the most, but one can see the potential for actually trying to recreate the forest that clothed the island.”
On the question on what Government has done to make the airport development inclusive, Governor Clancy said that “I think one of the key things is that there is a very strong commitment to build this airport from the UK Government. This is dependent on two things; firstly that the cost not going completely out of control, and then, some people have forgotten, it can be done without adversely affecting the environment. So from the very start of the project, environmental
consultants have been involved and they had advised us throughout. It’s a logistically complicated airport to build because we’ve got no airport at the moment. We don’t have a sea port as most people will understand it; so most goods would have to be brought in on special ships and the equipment will then have to be taken on a special hall route which will have to be built, that will be 4-5 kilometres long, and then we will have the 2 kilometre runway. So all this points towards possible environmental damage, that’s why we are so keen to avoid
environmental damage and as I say, there have been environmental consultants involved from the outset in all aspects of the project.”
There is also an issue around other environmental concerns in St Helena, particularly the waters of the island; poaching or illicit use of the waters for fishing without permits. The Governor commented that “I think generally on the island we are concerned with illegal fishing because we have no ways of policing our economical exclusion zone so the local fishermen generally fish within our immediate limits 12 miles from the island. They don’t go further out but people see lights from time to time. We do have seamounts where fish congregate and
there is a fear that illegal fishing is going on uncontrolled and without perhaps proper environmental safe guards. So that is a concern and I think it can be overplayed because we get a visit from the RMS at least
once every three weeks, and that doesn’t spot many illegal fishing vessels.”
The St Helena Independent Volume II,
Issue 31, Friday 6th July 2007