Local Authorities Must Take the Lead to Prevent Squatting – Mckenzie

Photo: JIS Photographer Local Government and Community Development Minister, Hon. Desmond McKenzie. (FILE)

Story Highlights

  • Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, says the island’s local authorities must take the lead in preventing squatter settlements and illegal buildings from mushrooming in their respective municipalities.
  • “The municipal corporations will now have to begin to take a much more proactive approach to the question of squatting, and they must now start to take a much greater proactive approach to persons who are building illegally and blocking drains and waterways,” the Minister emphasised.
  • Mr. McKenzie said come January 2018, his Ministry will bring all relevant stakeholders together across the country to conduct a rapid assessment of squatting and illegal buildings, and to come up with strategies for remedying the issues.

Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, says the island’s local authorities must take the lead in preventing squatter settlements and illegal buildings from mushrooming in their respective municipalities.

Speaking at a press conference at the St. James Municipal Corporation on November 29, Mr. McKenzie said there are far too many people building houses in areas that are unsuitable for human habitation.

“The municipal corporations will now have to begin to take a much more proactive approach to the question of squatting, and they must now start to take a much greater proactive approach to persons who are building illegally and blocking drains and waterways,” the Minister emphasised.

“What we need is the will to execute the laws that are presently on the books that speak to the question of illegal building, that speak to the question of squatting and that speak to the question of how you dispose of your garbage,” he added.

Mr. McKenzie said come January 2018, his Ministry will bring all relevant stakeholders together across the country to conduct a rapid assessment of squatting and illegal buildings, and to come up with strategies for remedying the issues.

“This collective force that we are bringing together will form a core of what the new Building Bill that was passed in the House is calling for – to seriously look at the no-build zones and to look at how people build,” he said.

“If the law is to be effective, and if it is to change the face of how we do business as it relates to building, we have to be in a position to enforce the Regulations that have been passed as they relate to the Building Bill,” the Minister said.

The Minister said public education has to be a critical part of the focus of the local authorities next year, especially due to the recent and imminent changes in weather patterns.

He said the situation requires an “open response” from residents and a change in attitudes, as, if there is no change, despite the funding disbursed by the Government and any disaster mitigation works undertaken by the State, the problems will recur.

“We have not had this amount of rain for the last 30 years… . In some communities in Clarendon, we witnessed rainfall of over 10 inches within a short period of time,” he pointed out.

“Outside of what the climate is doing, there is also the human side, which is of grave concern to the Government. Regardless of how much money we provide for clean-up, and regardless of how many drains we clean, if there is not a change in attitude, then we are going to be back here in a short time saying the same thing,” he said.

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