#TurksandCaicos, November 13, 2021 – The next time you see a pine-looking tree in and around your neighbourhood, better look closely as it may be ‘Casuarina’. This tree is often mistaken as a member of the Pinus family due to its resemblance to our National Tree – the Caicos Pine.
Casuarina equisetifolia or Australian pine trees (often called cedar trees or whispering pine locally) are a familiar tree in the TCI but they are not native to our country.
In some places such as Half Moon Bay, Casuarina trees are growing in a thick, dense stands making access very difficult for visitors. All trees drop their leaves either gradually or all at once, so that they can grow new ones. Casuarina leaves (called needles) drop to the ground and form a thick impenetrable blanket which stops our native plants growing. Our endemic Rock Iguanas feed on the fruit, flowers and leaves of native plants like Sea-grape and Inkberry. They do not eat Casuarina leaves. So the dense stands of Casuarina will eventually shade out the native plants and because there is no food, there will be fewer rock iguanas to see at Half Moon Bay.
Under license from the DECR, the National Trust has begun clearing patches of Casuarina trees from parts of Half Moon Bay. The trees are felled and the branches are stacked in piles. This will give more space for the native plants to grow big and strong. Eventually vigorous, healthy native plants should cover these areas, stabilise the sand and stop the Casuarina from coming back as there will be limited space for the Casuarina seedlings to grow. The increase in native plants will greatly improve the quality of habitat for iguanas. The removal of the Casuarinas will create more space for visitors and improve the stability of the sand bar that forms Half Moon Bay meaning it is less likely to be washed away during a severe storm.
The larger trees will be left to provide shade and a focus for visitors. Staff and volunteers from the National Trust will return in future years to pull up Casuarina seedlings and prevent Half Moon Bay being recolonised by this pernicious invader. The number of iguanas in the area will be monitored by scientists from San Diego Zoo and we expect to see an increase in the number of iguanas in the area.
This is part of the large investment being made by the National Trust and its partners to increase the number of Rock Iguanas on Pine, Water and Little Water Cays. In the past ten years $2.7 million has been invested in TCI in securing the population of Rock Iguanas on these islands.
Please support this work and contact the Turks & Caicos National Trust to know how you can help. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (649) 941-5710.
Casuarina trees come from southern Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands and were introduced to TCI in the 1920s.
It’s one of the few trees that can grow quickly and easily in a poor salty soil and was planted initially to create shade and later as a landscape plant in tourist resort areas. From these areas Casuarinas have spread and can now be found on many islands and cays. Its seeds float and can survive immersion in seawater so once a clump or stand is established, it will spread to nearby areas. This seems to have happened from Causarina trees on Star Island (the man-made island constructed from stones and dredgings from the Leeward Channel) which have appeared on the southern shore of Little Water Cay.
Casuarina loves disturbed ground. It can often be seen growing along road edges or on abandoned buildings plots. It rarely grows in undisturbed bush areas. When cut, its wood makes excellent firewood and charcoal.
In its native range many insects and birds have evolved to use Casuarina in various ways (eg for food and nesting). However very few species in TCI can use them though some birds will roost in the bigger trees.
Casuarina trees have shallow roots. There is some evidence from Florida and other places that areas with Casuarina are more vulnerable to storm damage than areas covered in native vegetation. Native plants have roots that form webs under the ground knitting the sand together.
Caribbean Development Bank to offer solutions for TCI with Sea Defences
By Dana Malcolm
#TurksandCaicos, November 27, 2021 – The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has committed $600,000 to investigate upgrades to sea defences in the Turks and Caicos Islands, disclosed by the Minister of Physical Planning and Infrastructure Akierra Missick as she sought to reassure residents about the state of the defenses.
Concerns were raised by residents recently when the newly paved Front Street, Grand Turk was severely flooded because the sea wall was unable to hold back massive waves.
Minister Missick acknowledged the concerns but said that the government had been working on upgrades since August of this year. This, she said, had begun with a “holistic review of all of the island’s sea defenses.” It was revealed that this review is being done through an environmental consultancy agency.
The consultancy is set to run for 11 months.
At the end of the consultation period, the government should have what Missick described as shoreline characterization for Grand Turk and Salt Cay as well as designs for measures to break wave strength before it reaches shore and infrastructure upgrade designs for the entire coast of Grand Turk and Salt Cay.
Feasibility studies will be carried out alongside these infrastructure designs to determine their effectiveness.
Meetings between CDB and stakeholders including residents, tourism operators, engineers, coasts resource advisors, and others are set to occur over the 11 month time frame.
A coastal resource and vulnerability analysis is also set to be completed. This, Missick said, is a pre-emptive effort to prevent future problems.
Opposition leader Edwin Astwood spoke out regarding the flooding incident. He said the flooding was caused by faulty engineering of the sea wall rather than drainage along the road. In the House of Assembly on November 22, Astwood claimed the wall, which should have been built with a curve, was built flat.
Missick has not yet responded to the claims but has promised that CDB’s preliminary report should be tabled with Government by Summer 2022.
December to usher in greater protection for Consumers says Gov’t
The Consumer is King and the government wants to make sure you know it.
#TurksandCaicos, November 27, 2021 – The Turks and Caicos Islands Government (TCIG) is launching a sensitization program to increase public awareness of the Consumer Protection Ordinance. The news came from Lisandra Colley, Director of Trade in a press conference early this month.
Colley emphasized the importance of the move, saying that the ordinance which was passed in 2016 by the previous PNP Administration has gone largely unnoticed and its potential was not being fully utilized. She said, “Many people in the TCI are not aware of their rights as consumers and some businesses are not aware of their responsibilities under the ordinance.”
The government aims to change this and hopes that the sensitization program, a phase of which is dubbed ‘Consumer is King’ will help citizens to become more familiar with the rights the ordinance provides them.
Colley also maintained that the campaign will be monitored closely to gauge its effectiveness in the hope that any necessary amendments to the ordinance will become clearer to the government.
“There are people who know that there is a demand and they push their prices up… they’re rubbing their hands together during a hurricane thinking that now is the time to make huge profit margins,” he said at the press conference held November 8.
Despite this, he maintained that the government is dedicated to protecting consumers.
“We will use everything within our power to make sure that you don’t price gouge people during an emergency situation.”
Minister Saunders maintained that driving down costs increases quality of life for the consumer.
The ‘Consumer is King’ campaign will incorporate advertisements and brochures and is set to launch in December.
By Dana Malcolm
Premier and Deputy Premier discussed high-priority issues with UK Government at Joint Ministerial Council Forum in London
#London, UK, November 27, 2021 – UK Ministers, Overseas Territory (OT) elected leaders and designated representatives gathered in London, United Kingdom (UK) on Tuesday 16 and Wednesday 17 November for the first in-person Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) since 2018. The Turks and Caicos Islands delegation was led by the Premier Honourable Charles Washington Misick and consisted of the Deputy Premier Honourable Erwin Jay Saunders along with Tracy Knight, the Turks and Caicos Islands Government representative in London.
Delegates attended a total of eight sessions over the course of the two-day plenary on matters relating to the environment and oceans, the International Maritime Organisation (III) Code Audit, the UK-OT relationship, economic resilience, security and law enforcement, health and inclusivity.
The UK set out its commitments to the Overseas Territories in the paper Global Britain in a Competitive Age: the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy which articulated the collaboration with the Overseas Territories to address a variety of challenges including climate change, investment in physical infrastructure and marine protection.
The UK and the Overseas Territories agreed a joint communiqué which outlined and affirmed collaborative commitments to improve co-ordination across UK Government departments and conduct regular dialogue on relevant policy issues.
Noting that the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters and other external elements, pose a serious threat to the small and fragile economies of Territories, the UK Government reiterated continued partnership to strengthen health services in Territories through existing and new links with the UK; and the exploration of methods to diversify Territory economies and bolster resilience and investment; and assured that the interests and needs of the Overseas Territories will be considered when creating policies and programmes that will promote sustainable economic development.
The UK Government also shared information on the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) which supports and delivers activity including the Justice Programme and Border Security Programme in the Territories to provide funding and other assistance; and to fortify and modernise law enforcement capabilities in crime-fighting and border protection.
To enhance the safety and security of citizens, law enforcement capabilities and increase capacity in the Territories, the UK Government and the Overseas Territories agreed to share information and best practices and take a multiagency strategic approach across Governments to mitigate crime.
It was also agreed that the UK would consider new maritime technologies that might assist the Overseas Territories in the management of issues involving energy and waste.
On Thursday, 18 November the Premier and Deputy Premier held bilateral talks with the Right Honourable Amanda Millings, Minister with responsibility for the Overseas Territories in the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) on a range of issues pertinent to the TCI.
The Premier, remarking on the conclusion of the Council Conference stated, “The Turks and Caicos Islands continues to perform favourably overall, in comparison to our competitors in the region; however, there is much to benefit from and improve upon through close collaboration with the British Overseas Territories (BOTs). There seems to be a genuine interest by Minister Amanda Milling, OT Minister in the FCDO, to listen and use UK ministries and departments to assist the OTs to modernize systems and improve efficiency.
In our bilateral meetings with Minister Milling, all the representations made by TCIG were agreeably received and working groups will be established to follow through. These include: the process to escalate the delivery of the Providenciales International Airport Redevelopment; the resolution to TCI’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with its neighbours; the establishment of border control, maritime surveillance and policing; de-risking of certain TCI economic sectors; the introduction of biennial budgeting; and the delivery of e-governance”.
At a special event at during the JMC, delegates and students from the Overseas Territories, including Mr. Keanu Been of TCI, had the opportunity to meet and hear from His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge on the need to tackle climate change.
While in London, the Premier and Deputy Premier also met with the Turks and Caicos Islands All Party Parliamentary Group, Chaired by Alicia Kearns MP. The TCI All Party Parliamentary Group consists of Members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords with an interest in the Islands. The group champions the Islands in Parliament, raising issues of concern and holding HMG to account when required.
The JMC is the highest forum for political dialogue and consultation between the UK and elected leaders and representatives of the Overseas Territories. The aim of the annual conference is to promote cooperation in areas of mutual interest and provide a setting for the exchange of views on political and constitutional issues between the governments of the Overseas Territories and the UK Government.
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