Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Stedson George & The Future of St Helena

Stedson George, former headmaster, former Councillor, and expert on the night sky, is one of the characters of St Helena.

It is always worth listening to anything he says.

I well remember my few conversations with him on my visit to the island - in particular I asked him what was his favourite place amongst those he had visited in the world.

Lemon Valley he replied.

What place would he like to visit again, I asked.

The same answer!

I am still not sure whether he was just winding me up. Some day I really must go and check out Lemon Valley for myself.

Anyway I noticed that Stedson has been giving his views on the future of the island (St Helena Independent, 29th October 2010).

Like many Saints he is critical of creeping bureaucracy and would prefer more emphasis on the development of the private sector: At one time the entire SHG was housed in the Castle now it's gone further up the town!

Stedson feels that Government should be encouraging more production, especially from farmers and fishermen, and should be prepared to use short term subsidies to help people who lack capital to get businesses started.

He also has reservations about the proposed international airport. He doesn't think that St Helena can attract the anticipated 30000-50000 annual visitors. He would prefer a smaller airport linked to Ascension. Interestingly he thinks that St Helena should promote itself as a cruise ship destination, and argues that a priority should be the construction of a decent breakwater to make it safe for cruise ships to land passengers. He also argues for more emphasis on renewable energy.

Like Stedson I have some concern that it will not be alright on the night. The recent problems of Norfolk island, one of the models for St Helena development, raises concerns as to whether current plans are well founded.(1)

The previous UK Government clearly had doubts about the realism of the tourist targets when it announced a pause in the international airport project. I am still unclear as to why the current deficit reducing Government has reversed the decision of its ostensibly more profligate predecessor. I wonder if there is some hidden agenda?

Personally I would like prefer more emphasis on sustainability, as indicated in a previous post on this subject.

1. St Helena Role Model Goes Bust St Helena Independent, 5th November 2010, Norfolk is heavily reliant on tourism. But visitor numbers have slumped in recent times, and other key sources of income such as Norfolk Air, the island's airline, are losing millions of dollars a year.

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