Disturbing development apparent in Point Deroche

Opnion letter to the Guardian from Island New Democrat leader, Michelle Neill

There has been a disturbing lack of transparency surrounding a series of decisions made by the King government that ultimately cleared the way for the development of a fragile piece of P.E.I. shoreline at Point Deroche.

Photographs, published in print and online, show excavation within metres of an already vulnerable bank. They show erosion on either side of a massive barrier of boulders that extends well beyond the high tide mark, and further down the shore, severe damage caused by post tropical storm Fiona.

Many Islanders are asking how this project could have received the permits necessary for it to proceed. How does building in such a sensitive coastal area fit in with what we know about the impacts of climate change, the increased frequency and intensity of storms, and rising sea levels?

The development has become emblematic of the ineffectiveness of policies and legislation designed to protect the environment when they are poorly enforced, ignored, or overridden by authorities with the power to do so.

There is so much that Islanders just don’t know. What factors were considered when a non-resident applied to purchase 17.55 acres and 200 feet of shore frontage, well in excess of the limits prescribed by the Lands Protection Act? We don’t know. However we do know that the government’s executive council approval would have been needed for the purchase to go ahead.

How was a development permit issued, when there is no setback from the shoreline, which is one of the requirements for approval of such a permit? Again, it’s a bit of a mystery that seems to be the latest in a long list of mysteries approved by this government.

Astonishingly, it seems that when adherence to provincial buffer zone legislation should have prevented this type of new construction, it was easy for government to deny that the buffer zone even existed.

And speaking of the province breaking its own rules, what about that very big pile of rocks that is extending well past the high tide mark and effectively blocking access to the beach? Government is on record as advising against shoreline stabilization of this nature.

Then there’s the minister of the environment’s recent announcement of a moratorium on construction and shoreline protection activities in buffer zones. Why was this necessary? Don’t we have legislation that prevents activities in buffer zones? Yes, we do, but it appears to be pretty easy to circumvent. As we’ve learned, in 2021, over 90 per cent of applications to do work in buffer zones were approved.

In P.E.I., as in other parts of the country, land up to the high tide mark is considered public land, which means we all have the right to be there and use this area of the beach. The current landowners have been permitted to block public access by creating a barrier of boulders that extends well beyond the high tide mark.

The disaster at Point Deroche is further evidence that P.E.I. needs a land use plan that would, among other things, spell out what can happen in coastal areas. The P.E.I. NDP urges the government to put into place an accessible, inclusive, and meaningful public consultation process as its next step.

Islanders need a government who will follow the legislation and rules that are put in place to protect our Island landscapes, including its shorelines and public beaches — and not just look the other way or find loopholes for wealthy people, often non-residents, who wave cash in their faces. It’s about integrity and accountability!

Michelle Neill,

Leader, Island New Democrats

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The New Democratic Party of Prince Edward Island holds firm to the belief that the dignity and freedom of the individual is a basic right that must be maintained and extended. We are proud to be associated with the democratic socialist parties of the world and to share the struggle for peace, international co-operation and the abolition of poverty.

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