Lebensraum strikes back, water park project under fire

Nobody can, for the life of them, figure out what on earth is happening with the promised Siam Park Gran Canaria, that so long overdue water park project planned for the south of the popular sub-tropical holiday island, a project yet to break ground.

 

Despite repeated announcements of all the administrative ground work having been laid, despite failed court challenges, unexpected archaeological finds, clean bills of health galore, declarations of strategic investment and public interest, cross party support and facilitations at the highest institutional levels and a whole host more besides, everyone (except the ecologists) claims to be trying to break ground on a project touted as the “largest water park in Europe” that looks set to bring half a million extra tourists a year with the creation of nearly 1000 jobs and a €60 million investment.

 

Image: Universal

Yet all we get are broken deadlines and endless finger pointing. Talk now has turned to funny handshakes, masonic rituals and strange covens of southern business men as it appears, Egyptian mummy-style, that the project’s primary nemesis has returned from the dead, in the form of a “shady” company of lobbyists, with alleged connections to rival water park operators, who despite repeated failed legal challenges, have once more risen, appearing to unite two very different causes; allying a socialist oriented, presumably anti-capatilism environmental lobby with the supposedly pro-business conservative Partido Popular who control the south.

 

These would-be saboteurs pack together to lay the blame at the door of the island’s president, to the detriment of the project, however close study seems to indicate that it is he who has worked harder than most to try and ensure the project moves forward.  It appears to many that the town hall on the south may have gone rogue, dragging their feet, making last minute newly contrived requests for paperwork, failing to process that last remaining license, so that work can begin, a strategy that many suspect is simply wasting time;  when administrative deadlines run out, they will point the finger at someone else, and claim they did everything they could.  What on earth is going on?

Lebensraum Wasser, the mysterious company set up in November 2014 with seemingly no purpose other than to oppose the Siam Park tourism development on Gran Canaria, have found themselves in what one commentator termed as an “unholy alliance” with an environmental group called Turcón, who are trying to claim that the water park would be bad for the environment and for the island.

Following a scathing attack on the island’s President, Antonio Morales, over the weekend by the conservative Partido Popular, allied to the current mayor in Maspalomas on whose ticket they have control of the local council; it has emerged, from a local news portal sympathetic to the administration, that the company with supposed and alleged connections to Aspro Parks, Lebensraum Wasser, have joined in voicing a Turcón statement accusing the project promoter, Loro Parque’s Wolfgang Kiessling, of trying to exercise “unacceptable pressure” on “technicians and officials”  by making complaints last Friday about the processing of Siam Park.

Lebensraum Wasser, whose name is German for water habitat, and the environmentalists once more question the legality of the procedure followed to handle the installation of this large water park in Maspalomas.  Despite the fact that several attempts have been made to derail the project for very similar reasons, all to have been thrown out of court repeatedly.  They now argue that Kiessling’s statements, made primarily in the face of mounting pressure from investment taxation deadlines, they say can not be interpreted as “a citizen complaint over excessive or illegal action by the Administration”, but instead as “unacceptable pressure on technicians, officials and, in general, the citizens of the island of Gran Canaria.”

Taking their lead from Turcón they, confusingly, state that the Insular Water Board of Gran Canaria granted this license for “the construction of a large leisure park on land owned by all Spaniards, ie, the Spanish State;” However, what the statement seems to fail to recognise is that, of course, the land on which the park is to be built was not only long untouched wasteland sitting between two main highways, but also privately owned and sold to Kiessling back in 2014 by the honourable Castillo family, who it should be noted were the originators of the tourism boom on the south of the island in the 60s, and continue to be highly influential throughout the San Bartolome de Tirajna and elsewhere. The sale only went ahead after lengthy consultation with the Cabildo de Gran Canaria and the Insular Water Board to ensure that permission could be granted to cross a thin strip of public land with a €2million canalisation construction project which they required to ensure the safe and free movement of storm water run-off.

The Turcón statement goes on to claim that the canalisation project in El Veril was granted “without possibility of competition with other projects” and that the pipeline works “have not taken into account the environmental risks or water discharges… with serious risk for property and people.”  These, though, are issues that have been repeatedly examined not only by the competent authorities and technicians, but also, famously, in the court case last summer brought about by Lebensraum Wasser, after they managed to get a temporary suspension on the water park project claiming similarly that the canalisation project was not put out to tender.  In the end the judge threw the case out of court having agreed that the project had been granted correctly by the water board, who have competence, and agreed that a tender was unlikely to be necessary as it is only the Siam Park promoters who would have an interest in spending the money on canalisation of the ravine.

The environmental group’s statements, on which Lebensraum Wasser now reportedly rely, continued by saying that “there is no delay” in the project but claims that there are “irregularities” and risk of destroying “archaeological sites and an important part of the flora and fauna typical of this island”.  Conversely following the war of words earlier this year, where exasperation between the local town hall and the island Cabildo was made clear following the surprise discovery of pre-hispanic remains in a small section of the site, the regional government sent in specialists to assess what had been found, who after weeks of examination decided that the find itself was of little ethnographic value, having been repeatedly disturbed over the centuries, and that so long as samples were properly collected and catalogued they saw “no impediment whatsoever to the development”. The island president even responded to the find by suggesting that instead of an obstacle, the find itself was in fact an opportunity to make a whole new feature exhibition within the original park plan.  The investors agreed to protect the site as part of their project.

So now we will all have to wait and see if all these recent noises are actually to some useful end, if they will eventually succeed in blocking the investment or are simply louder now because the project is so very close to being successfully begun… time will tell.

As one erudite commentator, Alex Bramwell, put it “The lobbyists are going to cling on until the bitter end cos that’s what they are paid for, but the ecologists really need to have a good look at themselves” expressing the same frustration that is being felt across the south, over a project that seems to be universally agreed to be a good thing for the island, for the economy, for jobs, for tourism “They let Tauro happen without a squeak but now El Veril is an island treasure?” he said in reference to the beleaguered Tauro beach project on the coast of Mogán, he implored the environmentalists to get their act together… “Pick your battles and your bedfellows better people!!”