BUT MUST PROTECT PRECIOUS LEGACY

St-Helena-plover-at-its-nest
St-Helena-plover-at-its-nest

The recent RSPB wildlife stocktake of the Overseas Territories – the first ever undertaken – has placed the spotlight on St Helena as the jewel in the crown, holding an astonishing 30% of all endemic species on British territory (species found nowhere else on earth). In fact, of all the OTs, this tiny 47 square miles far and away tops the league, with Bermuda coming a distant second.

In January 2014, the UK Environmental Audit Committee urged ‘enhanced monitoring’ and called on the UK Government to co-ordinate a comprehensive research programme with all stakeholders. With funding from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the RSPB has now started this work by completing the first ever stocktake of species across the UK’s island OTs. This brought together all known records from the last 300 years to finally reveal what species are known to be present.  Given limited resources, it is crucial that OT biodiversity knowledge is strengthened so that financial and policy support can be targeted to where it is most urgently needed.  The report (RSPB OTs Wildlife Stocktake Report, May 2014) can be seen on the RSPB website at: www.rspb.org.uk

The protection of St Helena’s environment, a mid Atlantic life-raft of rare and irreplaceable species, plus concerns regarding public health and agriculture, underpin the need for the development of St Helena’s border protection policy – what we call Biosecurity. Increased travel into St Helena will present fresh challenges that we must be prepared to meet, in order to secure one of the Island’s greatest assets for future generations.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said of the OTs: ‘We see an important opportunity to set world standards in our stewardship of the extraordinary natural environments we have inherited’.

Jeremy Harris, Director of the Saint Helena National Trust, commented:

“Over as much as 14 million years, St Helena has developed a totally unique biosphere of incredible diversity protected by thousands of miles of ocean. Five hundred years ago, it was discovered by people who brought goats and rats and other species that had a huge impact on its fragile environment.

St Helena Ebony - Pauline G
St Helena Ebony – Pauline G

“What remains today is still clearly remarkable and unique and of international significance. St Helena, now more than ever, needs our protection and care as the Airport approaches, bringing with it new risks and challenges.”

Why is St Helena Special?

The RSPB’s report reveals St Helena’s special importance, and supports the UK Government’s stance of protecting unique biospheres in the OTs. It finds that:

 

  • 94% of British endemic species lie within its OTs
  • Of the 1,547 species, St Helena holds the most at over 500, and rising
  • This is 180 more than the next highest, Bermuda
  • This means that the 47 sq miles of St Helena hold roughly 30% of all endemic species to be found on British territory

 

Small Bellflower - endemic Mike Thorsen
Small Bellflower – endemic Mike Thorsen

As an example of St Helena’s astonishing diversity, the Island has roughly 7 times more endemic terrestrial invertebrates than the Galapagos Islands if calculated by land area.

Ben Sansom, Head of the Environmental Management Directorate, added:

“This is a landmark report for the Overseas Territories and highlights how important it is for all of us on St Helena to protect, restore and maintain the Island’s very special ecosystem. The report was a collaborative effort between the RSPB and the Overseas Territories and I’d like to thank everyone on St Helena who contributed to it.”

Senior Veterinary Officer, Joe Hollins, concluded:

“As we move towards the opening of the Airport, the eventual aspiration of up to 600 visiting tourists a week and the loss of the ‘quarantine effect’ of a five-day passage by ship, biosecurity on St Helena is necessarily being tightened.  Our biosecurity framework has already gone out to public consultation and been passed for progression, and we will now move ahead to close any loopholes and establish any necessary legislation.

“We already have laws in place for live animals and related genetic materials, and for fruit, vegetables, plants and related products.  And the Bees Ordinance protects our disease-free bees and honey.  But remaining loopholes to be closed include certain meat, dairy and fish imports.”

Notes for Editors

The Importance of Biosecurity on St Helena

Biosecurity is a system of preborder, border and post border controls set up to protect sensitive ecosystems from pests and diseases that pose a threat to the environment, agriculture and public health.

Countries that are in close proximity to, or are part of, the world’s continental masses have been exposed to such threats for centuries, added to which they generally have long, leaky land and coastal borders which are difficult to defend. It is also true that in recent times the spread of pests and diseases has risen alarmingly, with the increased movement of people, cargo, animals and animal products – both legal and illegal.

St Helena, as a small and isolated island, has yet to be so exposed.  And it also boasts one of the best possible natural and defendable borders – over a thousand miles of sea with bottleneck points of entry. But this border is only as good as the nation’s biosecurity controls. The coming of the Airport, and eventual projected tourist numbers, represent a major biosecurity challenge.

The current policy on St Helena is (and has been for some time) for Customs staff at the Wharf to scan all incoming baggage and check all imported cargo.

Nearly all island nations carry out some degree of inbound scanning including, for example, New Zealand, Pacific Islands such as Samoa and Fiji, and the Galapagos – all of which operate complete inbound scanning.

A variety of pictures of St Helena endemic species are attached to this release.

SHG

3 June 2014

 

 

 

DFID Advisor
DFID Advisor

The Department for International Development’s (DFID) Infrastructure Adviser, John Bowker, previously visited the St Helena in November 2013.  He returned last week for an advisory visit, to finalise the infrastructure business cases and agree a three-year infrastructure plan for SHG going forward to 2017.

John has spent his time on the Island (28 May-5 June) with a busy programme, including meetings with SHG officials, Legislative Councillors and non-government organisations.  He has had numerous site visits, including to the landfill site, renewable energy sites, water treatment plants, Lemmon Valley and social healthcare projects.  Additionally, meetings have been held to discuss Airport related infrastructure, future maintenance plans and development plans for tourism.

John said:

“There has been much progress in the last six months.  These can be seen not only in physical infrastructure such as social healthcare, but also in the St Helena Government’s internal procedures and even in the recruitment of staff from the UK.  It has been good to see so many capable and enthusiastic people working towards a common goal for the future of St Helena”.

“The Hospital when I last visited was in a poor state of repair, but since then I have seen many improvements, such as refurbished bathrooms, replacement windows and the rationalisation of equipment. The much needed project to refurbish the operating theatre and diagnostic suite is also due to start soon”.

John also visited the new Challenging Behaviour Unit (CBU) site in Half Tree Hollow and is pleased with the progress being made.  He commented:

“The existing CBU does not provide adequate conditions for those that live there.  The new site, which is purpose built, is in a great location with a terrific sea view, better living conditions and sufficient space for the occupants to be properly cared for”.

John also said that St Helena can expect improvements in water testing, treatment and supply to all areas.  Sewage treatment plants will also be introduced in the next two years.  Many other projects in preparation for the Airport opening will also be carried out, including the development of Rupert’s Wharf and improvements to Field Road and Side Path.

John will produce a report summarising his visit and an action plan with recommendations for St Helena Government.  The long term focus is also to shift from immediate and reactive capital projects to more emphasis on maintenance of assets to ensure longevity.

A photograph accompanies this release.

SHG

6 June 2014

Samantha Cherrett
Samantha Cherrett

Recently arriving to the Island was Samantha Cherrett, Environment and Natural Resources’ (ENRD) new Environmental Data and GIS Manager (Geographical Information Systems), here for 18 months.

Samantha began work on Thursday 29 May 2014, and immediately went out on the boat to begin work on the Marine Mapping project.  Samantha’s role will be to collect marine data, analyse it and present it in a more visual way.

Samantha commented:

“Instead of seeing spreadsheet after spreadsheet, it is a lot easier to understand if the data is translated to a visual representation.  This can be done for data collected in the past, now and in the future.”                                                                           

Samantha will be working alongside the current GIS section within ENRD – which mainly focuses on mapping data for the infrastructure needs of the Island.  Samantha’s key focus is marine data collection and analysis, utilising the expertise of the Marine Section, particularly on the significance of collected data.

Looking ahead, Samantha hopes to turn raw information into something useful, so anyone from within St Helena Government or members of the public can pick up an environmental GIS map and understand it.  After the Marine Mapping project, the Environmental Data and GIS Manager will transfer her skills to wider environmental data collection on the Island, assessing soil quality and the geographical distribution of species such as insects.

Samantha has a Geological Degree, and experience of working with her local council.  More recently, she worked with a consultant engineering company, carrying out GIS environmental impact assessments.

Before arriving to St Helena, Samantha underwent training on the mapping software used on the Island.

SHG

6 June 2014 

The public is reminded that while construction works continue at the Wharf, the area will be open to pedestrians only between the hours of 16.00 & 08.30 Monday to Friday and from 16.00 Friday to 08.30 Monday (that is, over the weekend).  There will be restricted access to vehicles, and a barrier will be in place at the start of the construction works, adjacent to the freight terminal.

Authorised users only will be able to drop off/pick up equipment (e.g. diving equipment, fishing tackle etc) at the lower steps – before returning their vehicle to the area beyond the barrier. No vehicle at any time can be left parked on the Wharf between the construction site and the landing steps – this area will need to be kept clear in the event of an emergency.

Port management would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their continued co-operation.

SHG

3 June 2014 

Refuse
Refuse
Refuse 1
Refuse 1

After a period to clarify legal issues, SHG is undertaking the test drive (three pictures are attached) to assess whether the additional 12cm will have any impact on the work of the refuse collectors.  It is anticipated that any impact will be minimal, especially as the bin lift equipment is itself narrow and high, but Public Health team members and ENRD staff have nevertheless taken the opportunity today to look at any potential problems and find solutions.  For example, on some tight bends, there may be opportunities to identify minor road works that would ease access not only for the refuse vehicles, but also for emergency vehicles and other road users.

The new refuse collection vehicles have a rear loading 12 cubic metre rubbish compactor and each is fitted with a high level bin lifter.  This mechanical bin lifter aids the emptying of a range of standard wheelie bins – and 1600 x 240 litre wheelie bins have also been procured for households.

The new trucks, along with the redevelopment of the Horse Point Landfill site, will result in significant improvements in the management of solid waste and environmental health on St Helena.

Refuse 2
Refuse 2

Once SHG is satisfied that there are no operational issues, it will take formal possession of the trucks.

SHG

3 June 2014

Councillor Ellick
Councillor Ellick

Departing the Island on Thursday 5 June 2014, to the United Kingdom, is Councillor Gavin Ellick.  Councillor Ellick is to attend the 63rd Westminster Seminar, on Parliamentary Practices and Procedures.

The ever-evolving programme of this conference highlights current best practice and how Parliaments are adapting to changing domestic and global political environments.

Councillor Ellick will be joined by Councillor Baldwin in the UK – who has recently concluded his attendance at the British Isles and Mediterranean Region Annual Conference in Wales.

Councillor Ellick commented:

“I am happy and humble in being able to attend the Westminster Seminar on behalf of the Island.  I am eager to learn all I can and bring back new ideas to help me in my role as a Councillor, in turn improving current best practice to help the people of St Helena.”   

During the Seminar, Councillors Baldwin and Ellick will participate in various briefings, sessions and practical observations. Topics include the role of Parliament in holding the Executive to account, the relationship between Parliament and the media, representation and the role of the MP in the Constituency, standards, privileges and accountability, and the administration of Parliament, including the work of the Speaker/Presiding Officer and the Commission.

Councillors Baldwin and Ellick will return to St Helena in July.

SHG

2 June 2014

 

Attorney General - Frank Wastell
Attorney General – Frank Wastell

Frank Wastell, St Helena’s Attorney General, is to leave his post at the end of July, returning to the UK for personal reasons.

Frank has been an integral part of St Helena Government’s legal team since joining as Crown Counsel in 2006.  He subsequently became Solicitor General and later Attorney General of St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha in 2013, having served several years acting up in that role since 2006.

Speaking about his time on St Helena, Frank said:

‘We cannot believe that we are now in our ninth year on St Helena.  It seems like only yesterday that I stepped off the RMS to go straight into a hearing of the Supreme Court and it has been a busy and challenging time ever since.

‘There has never been a dull moment on the Island, it is a wonderful place and neither me nor Lorna will ever forget the warmth and friendship of all the Saints and the vast majority of my working colleagues. St Helena and her people will have about as special a place in our hearts as it is possible to have, and although we have had to make this decision to leave now, I can say it is with the deepest sadness that we go.

‘I want also to mention the people of Tristan da Cunha who also made us so welcome as have the people of Ascension every time we have been there. All three islands are very different but the warmth of the people has been a constant. It has been a privilege to serve and live with you all.

‘There are obviously some challenging times ahead for St Helena.  Change is never easy for anyone but I have every confidence that the Island will successfully strive forward and I truly believe that this can only benefit everyone in the future.’

SHG

2 June 2014

The Elected Members of the St Helena Legislative Council are pleased to announce that the Honourable Gavin Ellick has been appointed as their Sports and Physical Activity Champion.

Recent debates within the Legislative Council have highlighted the importance of sports and physical activity to the health and well-being of the St Helena Community.  Gavin will actively champion involvement in sports and promote physical activity and will encourage everyone on St Helena, young or old, disabled or able-bodied, to meet the appropriate physical activity guidelines.

Speaking of his appointment, Gavin said he is passionate about sport. In his role as Champion he wants to work with existing organisations and individuals to support them and raise the profile of sport and physical activity on the Island, including participation in international competitions.

Gavin commented:

“I recently watched the primary school athletics competition and the intensity of performance etched on those young faces was inspiring.” 

Gavin will soon be travelling to the UK for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Westminster Conference.  While in the UK he is planning to meet with sporting organisations and relevant people to create new links between St Helena and the international sporting community.

May 2014

The St Helena Police Service has put forward measures to ensure that the Police are community and victim focused and that local links across the Island are strengthened.

As part of this community initiative, the Police Service is keen to understand what the public think of the service currently provided.  A St Helena Police Public Satisfaction Survey was thus launched at the end of April 2014.

Survey forms are available across local retailers on the Island, along with boxes to post them.  Survey forms are also available on the St Helena Government Website at the following link: http://www.sainthelena.gov.sh/forms/.  Once downloaded and completed, please hand them in at the Police Station or give to a Police Officer.

The survey forms are short and will only take a couple of minutes of your time.  The Police will be grateful for your views.  The survey results will be published in due course.

SHG

27 May 2014 

May 2014

The Quarterly Statistical News Bulletin, published today (27 May 2014) covers the period January- March 2014 and contains updates for the annual rate of inflation of the St Helena Retail Price Index (RPI), Income and Imports figures, Estimated Population and Visitor arrivals.

Annual inflation of the St Helena Retail Price Index stood at 0.9 per cent in Quarter 1 2014 – essentially unchanged from the previous quarter. There was a 0.5 per cent increase in the RPI (the overall cost of the ‘St Helena Shopping Basket’) from Quarter 4 2013 to Quarter 1 2014, following two consecutive Quarters where the RPI decreased.

The St Helena resident population continues to grow. In the first quarter of 2014 the population was estimated to stand at a little over 4,500. This is due to an increase in both temporary and permanent residents and extended visitors. The St Helenian resident population is also continuing to grow and was estimated to stand at a little over 4,100 in the first quarter of 2014.

In the first quarter of 2014 arrival figures were up by 4.3 per cent from the same period in 2013. The increased in arrivals is due to a rise in the number of Saints travelling on the RMS, and a rise in business and tourist visitors. Approximately 45 per cent of tourists were of UK nationality and over 75 per cent were from Europe.

Statistician, Dr Paula McLeod says:

“It’s encouraging to see indications that the St Helena population and economy are growing steadily. The information the Statistics Office publishes provides a small insight in to St Helena and her people. It is important that we gather as much data as we can so that we can monitor changes on St Helena and provide sound evidence for policy makers and businesses to base decisions upon.”

This month the Statistics Office also publishes an analysis of income from employment on St Helena from 2011 to 2013. The figures show a 6.7 per cent increase in the average income from employment, primarily due to a substantial increase in private sector wages, which showed a 14.6 per cent increase versus a 2.5 per cent increase in the average public sector wage.

The Statistical News Bulletin, along with the analysis of income from employment on St Helena from 2011 to 2013, and other statistical reports, is available for download from the SHG website www.sainthelena.gov.sh/statistics

If you have requested a copy of the Quarterly Statistical News Bulletin via email and have not yet received it, please contact the office on 22138 or by e-mailing statistics@sainthelena.gov.sh

Statistics Office, SHG

27 May 2014