March 1, 2017
For Immediate Release
Liberals’ Inaction Undermines Mistaken Point UNESCO World Heritage Site
Barry Petten, Environment Critic for the Official Opposition, said, “The Ball Liberals appear to be undermining the province’s commitments to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by not meeting obligations directly affecting Mistaken Point, which – after many years of planning and hard work in the community – was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2016. With recent changes to the former Environment and Conservation department and governance changes, things appear in chaos. The world is coming to Mistaken Point this year, and the Liberal government is not ready.”
The Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve has among the oldest multi-cellular fossils in the world. It is now the first provincially-managed World Heritage Site in the province. In Question Period on March 1, Petten held the Ball government to account for recent government changes affecting the site.
“Can the Minister provide the analysis and rationale for the decision to divide the Parks Division from the Natural Areas Division, and put the Natural Areas operations in the Department of Fisheries and Lands while placing the Parks operations under the Tourism department? Aren’t the province’s Natural Areas going to be viewed as significant tourism sites?
“How does the government intend to keep the commitments of the management plan objectives it is obligated to maintain under UNESCO status for Mistaken Point? In Budget 2016, the Liberal government eliminated the Manager of Environmental Education, a position that included ‘presentation and interpretation’ responsibilities of the site. It was one of only two key management positions with responsibilities for the new World Heritage Site and needed to continue to implement UNESCO’s management plan,” said Petten.
Petten added, “The management plan requires an advisory council of ‘community and science’ must be struck and operating; but since July, nothing has been done. A required memorandum of understanding is still not finalized with the local community. Plans for the interpretation centre have not been finished, and the tourism season is rapidly approaching. Four identified additional positions were advertised and we are told are now on hold. Will there be a full complement of staff in place to work with tourists by the spring?”
“We have heard from the region that over 700 requested tours were turned away from visiting the Mistaken Point site last year because of a lack of resources. Visitation to the site is up 70 per cent from the prior year. Far more tourists will be expected to seek out the site this year, given its UNESCO status and national and international exposure. We are told that the Interpretation Centre at Portugal Cove South was advised by government that they were not permitted to take reservations for this summer. Can the Minister give assurances that the appropriate resources will be in place to ensure tourists are served, opportunities are not lost and our reputation is not damaged? Will site enhancements to the interpretation centre and staffing commitments be adequate to meet visitation demands for Mistaken Point when it opens and fulfill UNESCO obligations?” asked Petten.
Director of Operations and Communications
Office of the Official Opposition
(709) 729 6105, [email protected]