Ya’Ax­chè Con­ser­va­tion Trust v Chief For­est Of­fi­cer, The At­tor­ney Gen­eral, Belize Hy­dro­elec­tri­cal Devel­op­ment and Man­age­ment Com­pany Limited [2014] CCJ 14 (AJ)

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Joanne Flem­ming: Nor­man Man­ley Law School

The over­rid­ing need to pre­serve and pro­tect the di­verse ecosys­tems sit­u­ated within the Bladen Branch Na­ture Re­serve in Belize, fu­elled the Ya’Ax­chè Con­ser­va­tion Trust’s call for the Court to re-ex­am­ine the de­ci­sion of the Court of Ap­peal (CA) of Belize. The CA held that the Ad­min­is­tra­tor, un­der the Na­tional Parks Sys­tems Act, could is­sue a per­mit to the Belize Hy­dro­elec­tri­cal Devel­op­ment and Man­age­ment Com­pany Limited to con­duct hy­dro-elec­tric stud­ies within the re­serve. Ya’Ax­chè Con­ser­va­tion Trust con­tended that the Court of Ap­peal wrongly in­ter­preted the pow­ers of the Ad­min­is­tra­tor since the ob­ject of the Act was to pro­tect the nat­u­ral re­serve and pre­serve its undis­turbed state.

The Ya’Ax­chè Con­ser­va­tion Trust, how­ever, faced an ob­sta­cle of whether by the time the case was pre­sented be­fore the CCJ) there would be any ex­ist­ing is­sue for the Court to de­ter­mine. The mat­ter con­cern­ing the va­lid­ity of the an­nual per­mit would by then only be in the­ory, be­cause the per­mit would have been ex­hausted.

The CCJ was there­fore in­vited to an­a­lyse the cir­cum­stances in which aca­demic ap­peals could be heard. The Court noted that although there is no rule bar­ring a mat­ter where there is no live is­sue to be heard, it must still ex­er­cise cau­tion in its dis­cre­tion to en­ter­tain such ap­peals. It was there­fore held that the Con­ser­va­tion Trust pre­sented a com­pelling case which raised is­sues in public law. This sum­mary is in­tended to as­sist the Caribbean public in learn­ing more about the work of the CCJ. It is not a for­mal doc­u­ment of the Court. The judg­ment of the Court is the only au­thor­i­ta­tive doc­u­ment.

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