The following is the address of Hon. Josephine Connolly on Thursday, November 18 on the Beach Vending Bill, which is scheduled to be taken to the House of Assembly on Monday.
The beaches of the Turks and Caicos Islands are for the enjoyment of all for both our citizens and for those who visit our shores. As a mainstay of our economy, they have provided not only enjoyment, but a livelihood for our nationals. Furthermore, it is a fundamental part of our marketing of these islands.
We believe that our beaches must be kept safe, protected and made more comfortable for all users. It is therefore imperative that we take the necessary steps to do so.
On Monday the government will take a beach and coastal vending bill to the House of Assembly. This bill is one part of a package by the government to upgrade our beaches, provide a structured Avenue for vending on the beach and ensure that we manage the environment that is so important to us.
This government has given careful thought to this bill and has considered the need to strike a balance to ensure that persons can earn a living, and simultaneously enjoy the beach freely and unencumbered.
Over the years with the increase in tourism, there has been an escalation in the numbers in beach vending, and complaints of harassment on the beaches, and complaints of illicit behaviours, and littering on our beaches.
The bill is intended to ensure that vending activities are within defined safe zones. This includes jet skis, selling of beach chairs etc. These vending zones will be plied by identified and uniformed vendors and service providers in a manner befitting a five star, high-end, tourism destination.
It means that while beachgoers can relax and have a swim along any area of the beach, vendors, persons selling items or services will have demarcated zones from which to ply their trade. This means that there will be a little chance of persons getting in your way as you lie on the sand or play with your family and friends. Funding is the only activity that will be confined to colour coded zones.
Locals and visitors alike have complained about indiscriminate vending interrupting enjoyment on the beaches. In this way, all will enjoy the beaches safely. Where there are no vending facilities, the government will as it has begun to, either purchase or erect vending markets. The zoning of beaches into swim zones and selling zones will protect all users and vendors as well. The bill will further establish an enforcement unit that is meant to provide consistent patrolling and monitoring of beach activities. In this way we hope to not only provide security to beach users but beach vendors themselves who have complained over the years about the lack of security and law enforcement officers on the beach.
In this bill, families will be able to continue to enjoy the beaches and to have their parties. However, for larger beach parties and events there will be need for a designated individual to be responsible for the clean-up. This is designed to ensure that others do not have the experience of wading through litter after a party or an event, when persons do not restore the beach to its clean state. In short, this is in response to the cries from members of the public.
There has always been a measure of registration for larger events and parties in place. As is the case now, the bill establishes certain fees for beach licences. Previously there was no established law or policy guiding the issuance of licences for beach vending. This will ensure proper monitoring of the number of licences per vending activity in vending zones. We are cognizant of the need for environmental consciousness. Government has noted that each beach has a carrying capacity and so it is important to know this and prevent overcrowding, littering and other behaviours that may damage or environment in discriminately.
If there are insufficient vending spaces on one beach, persons will be advised on where space and opportunities are available.
The recent purchase of a vending facility on Grand Turk, upgrades to the vendor markets near Ocean Club/Club Med, the current building of vending facilities on Sapodilla Bay along with upgrades to other vending sites are all part of the government's overall strategy to make our beaches safer and to provide meaningful yet structured avenues for vendors.
We invite the wider public to tune into the House of Assembly on Monday for the presentation of the bill. We assure you that there is no intention by this administration to hinder any Turks and Caicos islanders' access to the enjoyment of our ‘beautiful by nature’ beaches.