Statia St Eustasius

Knops 13: $5 – $10 Million For Fort Oranje Cliff Erosion Statia. Why No Townhalls? How Do The Dutch Expect To Reach Statians? Invasive Goats

What species more invasive than humans?

Mr Dittrich (D66):
I would like to inform you that the island is saying: why has there never been some kind of townhall meeting? This is about a meeting where a lot of residents could come together, explaining the plans and asking: what do you think of that?
State Secretary Knops:
They’re organized.
Mr Dittrich (D66):
Well, it is said on the island that this has happened to a very limited extent and in a small circle, but not for those who are normally already difficult to reach. So it would be an opportunity in the future to see how you can turn directly to the population to prevent all kinds of falsehoods or falsehoods from circulating.
State Secretary Knops:
I think that is a valid point. I suggest that I return to that in that report in May. In the meantime, we’re trying to go deeper and see what it’s in. But as far as I’ve been informed, there have been townhall meetings. That’s the advantage of a small bowl. I’ve done them myself a number of times. Not everyone could be there, but it will be broadcast, so you can reach quite a lot of people very directly. We are completely transparent about what we do. We have nothing to hide. In fact, it would be very strange if we were not transparent about that. Everything we do and what we have in input and output can be shared. It is also very visible. I will take that element — how is it experienced there, how is it perceived? — want to include in detail in the following report. I’d like to promise.
The Chairman:
Thank you for this commitment.
Mrs Gerkens (SP):
I would like to go into a little more detail, if you will allow me. I would ask the Secretary of State not to blame it. I believe that the Secretary of State has acted very decisively. Only, if we look back on the whole process, we’ll see that maybe we dropped some stitches. I’m not just referring to this. Also look at the results of the election in Curaçao. Of course, we do not yet know what is going on in Aruba or what is to come. My question is: if you are going to make that report later, would you also like to try to see in some way what did not happen and what, if we look back, maybe we should have done? Then I think it’s in the contact with the resident. Townhall meetings are one way. From my political experience, I know that when I went to a night of politics, for example about paid parking, it was always a one-way street. You could have yelled that you were against it. People just didn’t go anymore at some point. So has there been a real conversation? Would the Secretary of State like to look into that?
State Secretary Knops:
Sure. I had hoped that the efforts we have made among the people there would have led to a more positive picture. I cannot say that it is not now, but I do notice that those elected to the Island Council are very critical of what is going on. I sometimes hear the same texts about this as I did three years ago, when things have really changed. So I also see this as an assignment to ourselves to see where we can do even better. The townhall meeting is a very accessible meeting, but when people experience that they can hardly ask a question there … I have been to the town hall a number of times myself and answered questions there. That took hours. That wasn’t a problem, but it doesn’t mean you agree on everything in the end. For example, there is quite a lot of discussion about how to deal with the goats. There are a lot of goats on St Eustatius, but they also eat everything bare, causing the rock face to collapse. You have to name problems like that. But at the same time you also have something cultural about the island, where people say: that has always been the case; Those goats run everywhere, they’re certain people’s, and they should be able to walk anywhere. That can’t go together. That’s the kind of discussion you get sometimes. But I, the government commissioner and his deputy are completely open and want to see how we can do this better. So I see this primarily as a broad call from your side, which I like to pick up, to see what is missing and how we can make people feel that they are being heard.
That island council is formal. That’s right, that’s right. That is also part of the return law, so to speak. It does not yet have all the powers that an island council would normally have. It is therefore true that it has been democratically elected at the moment, but that it does not yet have all the powers of an island council. That has to do with the fact that we have said in that law: we are going to build in a number of stages, not so much time-related, but more outcome-related. Once you’ve reached that level, move to the next stage. That is to eventually get some kind of gradual return, because the risk of immediate return, namely that you fall back to the old situation, would have been much greater.
Mrs Gerkens (SP):
The story of the goats reminds me of the time china was discovered. I believe it was the English who thought: this is a fantastic market, we are going to bring knife, fork and spoon here. You can understand that it never worked. That’s because they had figured out what needed to be done and asked what was needed. My question is therefore: see if we have been asked what is needed instead of us thinking about what should be done.
State Secretary Knops:
You hadn’t been to St Eustatius, had you? There’s a lot of goats out there. In itself, that’s not a problem, you’d say. But if it really leads to the cliff on which Fort Oranje stands is almost on the verge of collapse and that we have now had to invest between 5 and 10 million, 

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