A post by Peter Jordens.
The Antigua Observer reports that in a highly confrontational meeting, Barbudans recently gave permission for billionaire Australian investor James Packer and US actor Robert De Niro to embark on the US$250 million redevelopment of the K Club beach resort […]. Two hundred and six people, by way of ballot, gave their consent while 175 voted against the project. [… However] several people questioned the process and [only] reluctantly agreed to the requirement to write their names in full on the sheets of yellow writing paper, in the column headed “yes” or “no” for the Paradise Found project. The opposition Barbuda Peoples Movement (BPM) says that they will seek to have the decision overturned as the laws governing the approval process were not followed.
The reason the popular vote was sought is outlined in the Barbuda Land Act which states that all land in Barbuda belongs to the people of the island and further no major development on Barbuda should take place without agreement of the Cabinet and the Council and the consent of the people. The project [had] already been endorsed by the Barbuda Council, the Cabinet, and the Barbudan people in principle, leaving the popular vote as the final step in the [approval] process.
As The Telegraph (UK) reports, the now derelict, 251-acre K Club luxury beach resort was once favoured by Diana, Princess of Wales. The proposal by Robert DeNiro and James Packer will eclipse the value of all past developments in Barbuda combined, if it meets the proposed US$250 million value. An outline agreement [for the Paradise Found project] with the island’s government comprises a five-star boutique hotel, a ‘high-end eco-lodge’, a marina with jetties for superyachts, licences for a casino and air service, and a new airport for executive jets. But many are alarmed by the scale of De Niro’s ambitions for a 198-year lease to include nearly 400 acres of the low-lying natural paradise, noted for its frigate bird sanctuary, for a mere US$ 6.2 million. The plan would entail surrendering public possession of land owned [in common] by the island’s 1,500 residents, many descended from Barbuda’s original 17th century slave families, whose stakeholding is a birthright enshrined in local law. […] De Niro has committed to training the available local workforce for hospitality and security roles at the property, with 120 new jobs projected. With Barbuda’s unemployment levels high, little reward from fishing or other traditional occupations, some consider De Niro’s plans an emotive but necessary upset.
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