Senators Hustings Meeting - Countryside
The Chief Minister was roundly accused of hypocrisy for failing to protect green fields in Jersey's rural parishes.
Senator Frank Walker may be departing his post in a few months but most of the 21 candidates aiming to fill his shoes spoke out against his recent speech when he had said that his 'highest priority' was to preserve the countryside.
All Senatorial candidates were asked by the RJAHS last night for their opinion on that statement, in the light of the fact that 60 vergées of agricultural land had been rezoned for building.
Deputy Sarah Ferguson said that she thought that the rural economy strategy was not working and that she thought most Jersey farmers and countryside workers wanted independence from government subsidies.
Cliff Le Clercq said that he thought that farmers were entitled to sell their fields for development if they could not sell the produce that they grew and that he would not blame them.
Deputy Peter Troy said that it was difficult to balance the need to protect the environment and provide Islanders with homes and said that the Island needs to work the land efficiently.
Senator Paul Routier said that he had supported the decision to rezone land in the countryside because of the need for housing and to rejuvenate some parish communities.
Ian Le Marquand felt that rezoning was a population growth issue and said that if it continued to grow at the current rate there would be huge pressure on housing.
Adrian Walsh said that he was unable to answer the presubmitted questions because he had been working all day and had not had a chance to prepare answers.
Mick Pashley questioned why green zones were always the first target for developers in the Island and highlighted the loss of Sunset Nurseries to housing development.
Mike Higgins said that he feared for the future of Jersey if the progressive 'rape' of the countryside by property developers continued.
Daniel Wimberley challenged the Chief Minister's use of the words 'high priority' and said that it was impossible to govern the Island with a policy that allowed rezoning to take place in eight different parishes.
Senator Philip Ozouf said that he felt that he was the States Member who had done the most analysis of housing demand and that he thought no more rezoning was required in the Island.
Jeremy Maçon said that if Jersey let its agricultural industry die then it would lose more green fields because the uncultivated land would be built on.
Deputy Geoff Southern said that the Chief Minister could make any promises that he wanted because he was soon leaving the States and that he personally thought limiting population growth would protect green fields.
Senator Mike Vibert said that he had supported the rezoning plans in the countryside brought forward by the Constables because he was concerned for the parish communities.
Deputy Alan Breckon said that he thought the Chief Minister's report on Keeping Jersey Special was an April Fool because it was so different from the plans for the Waterfront and the sunken road.
Nick Le Cornu said that growing potatoes could never compete with a hedge fund because it was so hard for the farming industry to compete with finance.
Montfort Tadier said that the Chief Minister's comments were 'disingenuous' and that he thought current population growth should be capped to prevent further building in the countryside.
Chris Perkins said that the current 'rampant' rate of population growth would lead to more rezoning for housing.
Trevor Pitman warned that high rise developments in St Helier would not be the answer to save green fields and that they would only be a temporary solution which would cause problems for future generations.
Mark Forskitt said that he thought Jersey could be a leading example for the world in how to be a sustainable community.
Deputy Alan Maclean said that he did not support building on green fields because future housing needs should be accommodated on brown field sites, the regeneration of St Helier and the Waterfront.
Nick Palmer said that the Chief Minister was a hypocrite because he was planning to 'nibble away' at the countryside more or less indefinitely, despite what he had said in his speech.
[ Source : This Is Jersey ]
The question of importing milk was raised at last night's hustings meeting.
Andrew Le Gallais asked the 21 candidates whether they agreed with the suggestion by the Jersey Competition Regulatory Authority executive director, Chuck Webb, that there should be unlimited importation of milk into the Island or a States subsidy towards production to keep prices down.
Deputy Sarah Ferguson disagreed with importing milk and felt that the States should have 'a firm financial footing before indulging in vast subsidies'. 'I don't think Chuck understands Jersey at all – his report on supermarkets was rubbish,' she added.
Ian Le Marquand believes that Mr Webb 'doesn't understand the issue and how important the Jersey cow is to Jersey'. 'If we allowed importation it would decimate and undercut the Jersey dairy herds which would be an absolute disaster,' he said.
Chris Perkins rejected imports and backed a States subsidy, believing preservation is key as the world famous Jersey cow is 'very important for tourism and the rural economy'.
Similarly Mike Higgins agreed with preserving the dairy herds and a supply of milk locally, and is in favour of a subsidy.
Montfort Tadier felt that importations might be 'okay' if not cheaper than Jersey milk, but added that his preference was not to have any foreign milk at all.
Trevor Pitman warned: 'If we do start importing it could lead to wider issues with competition and the way it would be looked at by the EU.'
Senator Philip Ozouf believed that 'historically there has been mismanagement at Jersey Dairy'. 'I got thrown out for saying that a few years ago,' he added, before praising the 'huge progress' made in the last few years to make it an efficient industry.
Deputy Alan Maclean firmly rejected importing milk, saying it was an 'absolute no, no, no, and would be the beginning of the end'.
Nick Le Cornu said: 'Of course townies want cheap milk and they're not allowed it and that's the contradiction. It is not easily explicable – it is just there.'
Mark Forskitt believed we have 'to start learning to live with the resources we've got'.
Nick Palmer made the point that: 'If you change the way you measure economic measurement then Jersey milk would become as cheap if not cheaper than milk that you import.'
And Deputy Alan Breckon mentioned that a public policy exemption under the competition law could effectively protect the dairy from imports.
Cliff Le Clercq said: 'I don't think we should be bringing in milk but the price should be fair and reasonable.'
Mick Pashley said that if the States could subsidise it then they should, adding: 'We have the best milk in the world, why would we want to import it?'
Deputy Peter Troy remarked that he preferred Jersey milk and wouldn't purchase others if they were on sale.
Senator Paul Routier didn't agree with imports and believed the States had done well in subsidising the industry in recent years.
Adrian Walsh felt that Jersey Milk is making a big profit which doesn't filter down to the general public or farmers.
Daniel Wimberley stated: 'This is a matter of trade justice. We have the right to protect our Jersey cow. Free trade is not a god, competition is not a god – whatever Chuck Webb thinks.'
Jeremy Maçon completely disagreed with Mr Webb and said: 'If you import more milk you will kill our dairy industry. If you do that we lose our cows. If we don't have that, we lose our green fields.'
Deputy Geoff Southern explained that he was in favour of agricultural subsidies and not in favour of importing milk.
Senator Mike Vibert believes that the only way to ensure Jersey milk remains the Island's only milk is if local milk producers and the dairy are as efficient as possible. 'We are moving in the right direction,' he added.
[ Source : This Is Jersey ]