His vision is to see the National Conservation Commission (NCC) move to a position of financial viability, and contribute even more significantly to "greening" Barbados.
And if the man at the helm of the NCC, Keith Neblett, has his way, Barbados, like some parts of Singapore, will be virtually transformed into one huge "garden".
Speaking against the backdrop of the NCC’s 40th anniversary celebrations, Mr. Neblett noted that this milestone was an achievement for any institution.
"The NCC has a very broad mandate, as set out by our Act. ??However, one of the things that we would like to do is to become self-sufficient. We have a very fledging commercial arm, and, we would like, in the next 10 years, to be able to say to the Government that we can raise enough revenue to be self-sustaining, so that we would not have to go to the Ministry of Finance for any resources," he said.
With regard to the Singapore -model, Mr. Neblett underscored the need for volunteerism and community participation.
" If you could get everyone in Barbados to come on board, and to really do some beatification and planting?? around their homes, as well as extend into potential green spaces in the environs … when driving around Barbados one would not be seeing ??a lot of?? rab land, where?? people could go and dump, but instead, it?? would be?? green and beautiful," he contended.
The General Manager also made mention of instituting internal conservation practices to keep conservation high on the department’s agenda.?? "What we are seeking
to do now, is to show the public that whatever we do in the NCC, centres on conservation – whether it is conservation of water, or whether it is concerned with energy or whether in terms of conservation of our soil," he asserted.
Noting that ??the department was seeking to embark on programmes to foster energy reduction, Mr. Neblett said?? in addition to?? recycling and instituting?? water-saving?? devices?? at a number of facilities, a lot more drip irrigation techniques were also being employed.
"These are some of the areas that we are looking forward to, in terms of trying to reflect the whole "green" aspect of our economy. Down the road, I would also like to see an environment created where we have well-established green spaces in almost every community for Barbadians to go and relax," he affirmed.
In reflecting on the Commission’s contributions to date, Mr. Neblett made mention of the social, environmental and commercial services under its mandate.??
"We have been involved in the provision of play parks around the island, with over 44 being opened to date. This is one of the areas which we consider critical to young people’s social development.?? The maintenance of parks and beaches also has a positive impact for beach users and tourism.
"Our provision of beach facilities is second to none throughout the Eastern Caribbean. This is one of those services that we take for granted, but if you go outside of Barbados you would recognise its worth," he maintained.
The NCC head also credited the department’s lifeguard and ranger services with providing yeomen service in terms of a safe environment for both Barbadians and
visitors alike. The lifeguard complement currently stands at 80 and the ranger service at 110.
In terms of its commercial operations, the NCC head identified its landscape /maintenance department, plant and grass nursery, as well as its vending, property rentals and sale of outdoor furniture as among the key services currently offered.
With education being a critical aspect of its product offering, Mr. Neblett also referred to its plant propagation training for school and community organisations, as well as training in the marine environment, offered through the Folkestone Park and Marine Reserve.
The NCC’s efforts to prevent land degradation in terms of its tree planting initiatives were also flagged by the General Manager, who revealed that over 10,000 trees had been planted in the last 10 years. He further noted that the department’s flagship, "Tree for Every Child Project" had seen over 15,000 trees planted to date, en route to a targeted 80,000 in three years.
Under the provisions of the Parks and Beaches Act of 1970, the Parks and Beaches Commission was established. ??The Government of the day placed public parks such as Queen’s Park, Farley Hill and King George V Park, as well as other public areas worthy of beautification, such as Rockley Beach, the seaside of the East Coast Road, Bay Street Esplanade and Folkestone Park, under the Commission’s authority.
The organisation is today headed by Mr. Neblett and a senior staff team comprising a Deputy General Manager, Finance Officer, Human Resources Manager & Assistant General Manager.
Its operations are serviced by a Human Resources and Administration Department, an Accounts Department, a Buildings & Works Department, a Commercial Department, a Ranger/Warden Service, a Lifeguard Service, a Transport, Mechanics and Welders Department and the Folkstone Park and Marine Reserve.
Over the last 22 years the Commission’s staff complement has grown progressively and now stands at 976 employees.
Therefore, as the NCC seeks to surpass strides made over the past 40 years, it will build on the firm foundation laid down by its forerunner the Parks and Beaches Commission, and a sound vision with the interest and welfare of Barbadians at its core.