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Nygård under gun in Bahamas

Group claims estate plans threat to environment

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If it was a James Bond movie, Peter Nygård would be the villain.

A large group of wealthy international Bahamian residents have lined up in a legal battle against the wealthy but apparently environmentally uninterested Peter Nygård.

The neighbours and a powerful environmental group, Save the Bays, claim Nygård has been illegally expanding his estate on the northern tip of the pristine coral-reefed Clifton Bay by reclaiming seabed that has doubled the acreage of his property.

In the process, they claim, Nygård is starving his wealthy neighbours' beaches of the natural flow of sand and sea ecological activity.

This week, an application to the Supreme Court of Bahamas is seeking a judicial review into what an environmental group is calling a "purported" consultation process that is "procedurally unfair" regarding permits related to a massive seaside estate built by Nygård, the former Winnipeg fashion entrepreneur.

Nygård has been building his estate at the end of a long peninsula on the west end of New Providence island that has been renamed Nygård Cay since 1984.

The elaborate fantasy-themed multimillion-dollar compound that's been profiled on Oprah Winfrey's TV show as well as Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous sustained a serious fire five years ago, and his rebuilding efforts are lately being rebuffed by a powerful group of neighbours from the super-expensive Lyford Cay neighbourhood near Nygård's estate. The Bahamas largest city, Nassau, is also on that island.

Those neighbours and environmentalists include none other than 007 himself, Sean Connery (and his wife), Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Nicholas Brady (the former U.S. Treasury secretary) and a bevy of super-rich anglophones from around the world.

But even among a group that includes names like Cadbury, Henry Cabot Lodge and at least a couple of knighted gentry, Nygård has been a poster child for what Bahamian environmental lawyer Fred Smith said is an "invasion, not investment, by wealthy foreigners."

This week a "Say No to Nygård" rally in Nassau drew more than 200 people.

Also at stake is the future integrity of Jaws Beach, where a Jaws movie was shot as well as the Flipper television series from the 1960s and the James Bond movie Thunderball.

The applicants claim Nygård's dredging and sea reclamation is also impacting the integrity of nearby Clifton Heritage Park, the only national park on the island.

Smith is on the board of Save the Bays and is acting for the group in its application for a judicial review.

"We are not picking on Mr. Nygård," Smith said in an interview from his office in Freeport, Bahamas. "The issue of unregulated development is the greatest challenge facing the Bahamas now. But Nygård epitomizes the kind of cosy relationship that white developers have with the government, paying them huge sums of money and donating directly to their political campaigns."

Nygård has had a long history of association and support for the current party in power, the Progressive Liberal Party.

Smith said the current legal action calling for a judicial review came about after lengthy legal pressure was applied against the government regarding permitting and disposition of Crown land, such that the government is now forced to hold public consultations for certain kinds of permits.

A couple of years ago, Smith's group won an injunction forcing Nygård to stop his dredging.

He has reapplied to start the work up again and a 21-day public consultation was called.

But the application for a judicial review says the process is flawed in that details of the work plans and other key documents pertaining to the Nygård construction plans have not been available for public inspection.

Nygård's Bahamian lawyer, Wellington Olander, was not available for comment.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 9, 2014 A2

History

Updated on Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 4:37 PM CDT: Adds map.

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