The Management of il-Magħluq ta’ Marsaskala

Il-Magħluq

Il-Magħluq ta’ Marsaskala is truly a remarkable place since it offers very rare habitats for various types of flora and fauna in the Maltese Islands. It is also very important for flood relief and for other services that it offers for free. Previously neglected for a number of years and suffering from mismanagement of the surrounding land uses; the area is also faced with various threats which give rise to the need for human intervention to correct these ailments. Thankfully through a collaboration with ERA, Nature Trust – FEE Malta and the involvement of key experts such as those from the Killifish Conservation Project, il-Magħluq is starting to recover from the effects of its neglect. 

Built in the period of the Knights of St. John, the site was formerly used for aquaculture purposes, a type of antique fish farming for several centuries. In fact the owners of a nearby restaurant recall how much fish, shrimps and other animals used to be caught from il-Maghluq. Nowadays the site is a protected nature reserve and the only fishing which can take place is that to control fish stocks for conservation purposes. The site forms part of the EU Natura 2000 network, a network of protected sites selected for their ecological importance. Locally it is protected under various levels of protection.

In the two main ponds which host around a million litres of water together, one can find many interesting species of fish which include Grey Mullet, Sea Bass, Sea Bream and the Freshwater Eel. However one particular fish, the Mediterranean Killifish is unique as it is known to be only found in three other locations around the Maltese Islands where one can find brackish water. Furthermore the site hosts plants such as the Sea Rushes which are quite rare in the Maltese Islands and the Sea Lavender which are typical of the salt marsh habitat il-Magħluq offers.


To support the conservation efforts of il-Magħluq, the Mediterranean Killifish is being bred through a separate project, The Killifish Conservation Project which is a collaboration among NGOs, public and private entities and is led by the Aquaculture Directorate. Breeding is kept for the maintenance of fish stocks. These may be used to release a few individuals on a period basis or as stock in the case of an emergency. As a further note on this project, there are plans to release the Killifish to other sites in the south of Malta, once the habitats are of a suitable nature. 

Despite these very interesting biological features, il-Magħluq is faced with significant stressors which are causing the area to face significant challenges. The challenge to top them all is the surrounding land uses, which are the greatest contributor to the present situation. Paved with a dense urban environment to the east side, and agricultural activities to the west side; the area is subject to various sources of nutrients and pollutants. Too much of anything is a bad thing and even excess nutrients can cause a massive change in the ecosystem, killing off important and sensitive plants and animals which offered services for regulating the ecosystem in the past. This situation is aggravated by the lack of a sufficient connection to the sea which means that there is very little exchange of water and therefore the water appears to become stagnant. 

Through a management agreement between Nature Trust – FEE Malta and ERA, works are being carried out to improve the site’s ecology and aesthetics. A rat control programme, monitoring of water quality and the Killifish population are being done a regular basis. Eggs from waterfowl are removed to prevent further offspring from occupying the area. These are one of the worst polluters and therefore controlling their population is also a priority. Two fish species are being controlled inside the fish ponds for their impact on the water quality and Killifish Population. These are the Grey Mullet which eats microscopic animals that eat the organisms that eat the green colour of the ponds (more Mullet = less zooplankton = more phytoplankton = more green colour) and the Sea Bass which eats the Killifish directly. 

Regular monitoring of the area through CCTV and site inspections, complemented by regular cleaning of the water and land are resulting in an area which is cleaner and more attractive. Various educational activities have taken place at the reserve where children and other visitors have been given talks and carried out fieldwork in the reserve. There are plans to hold an annual awareness raising event which will educate locals and visitors on the importance of the site for its ecology and human value. 

If you would like to know more about what is planned for the area and how to get involved please do not hesitate to contact James Gabarretta on jamesg@naturetrustmalta.org

James Gabarretta is the site manager for il-Magħluq ta’ Marsaskala and il-Ballut ta’ Marsaxlokk. He graduated with a BSc. in Environmental Engineering from the Institute of Applied Sciences at MCAST in 2017.

Marsaskala Community Clean-Up Day – 18/09/2019

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As part of the Clean Up the World Campaign, the Marsaskala Local Council is organising a Community Clean-Up. Residents are urged to join and give a helping hand in cleaning our locality.

The clean-up will start at 9am from Żonqor. The more people turn up, the better, so as to move to other zones.

Do join and make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes, get refillable water bottles, apply sun protection and you are urged to wear a cap.

Cleaning equipment including gloves, skips, garbage bags and other cleaning materials will be provided by the Local Council.

Nibbles and refreshments will be provided to those who attend.

Sustainable Development Goals

The Committee for Sustainability at the University of Malta (C-SUM) has just published good tips which can apply to everyone:

  1. Turn off air conditioners and lighting when a room is vacant unless it will be reoccupied within the next few minutes.
  2. Block direct sunlight on hot days and keep windows and doors closed, otherwise air conditioners need to consume much more energy to maintain a comfortable temperature.
  3. Keep the AC to an appropriate temperature setting, typically not below 23 degrees C for cooling. Set the fan to automatic and the flaps directed towards you. Consider that every additional degree of cooling requires some 6% higher energy consumption.  
  4. When there are multiple AC units in the same space avoid setting the AC mode of any of the units to Auto and ensure that all ACs within the same room are set to the same mode (cooling or heating).
  5. Close water taps completely after use.
  6. Use the appropriate half or full flush buttons in the toilets.
  7. Set the power options of the PCs to save energy. For example set turn off monitor after 20 minutes, sleep after 1 hour, hibernate after 2 hours. Note that as most PCs on Campus are powered through the University UPSs, the resultant power consumption is even higher due to losses within the UPS systems.
  8. Minimise the use of printers by using soft copies of documents when possible. This conserves energy, saves paper, reduces ink/toner consumption and any associated ultrafine particle emissions.

Marsaskala Local Council Election – Results

The below are the elected Councillors for Marsaskala Local Council. We wish the Councillors all the best in their posts, whilst thanking all candidates.

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Mario Calleja (Mayor)
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Janice Falzon (Vice Mayor)
Charlot Mifsud
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Patrick Camilleri
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Mary Rose Mifsud
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Ryan Portelli
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John Schembri
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John Baptist Camilleri
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Errol Cutajar

Il-Magħluq’s fish fauna – The killifish and seabass

In our first installment about the Magħluq’s fish fauna, we had talked about the common eel. In this second episode, we will be talking about 2 fish. One is the killifish; probably the fish that is most commonly associated with the Magħluq area.

The other is the seabass; another fish that habitates the area.

The information is again brought to our portal by Mr. Rio Sammut, who we thank for his valuable input.

Aphanius fasciatus: Killifish (Bużaqq in Maltese)

Aphanius fasciatus Saline de Cervia 2003
Photo from www.killi.co.uk

Max. length: 6.5cm Max. weight: 10g

Characteristics:

Rounded body covered in big scales: large eyes; short mouth deflected upwards; single dorsal fin set at mid-point of the back; anal fin bigger than pectorals; fan tail, truncated and slightly convex; the male is smaller and yellow or greyish-green with blue areas and about twelve dark vertical bands across the sides; the female is 10% larger and more greyish, with alternating narrower and shorter black stripes.

Habits:

The Maltese Killifish is an endemic sub-species. It used to be extremely abundant in brackish water, occasionally penetrating into the seawater inside bays, especially following torrential rainfall and consequent flooding. It feeds on small organic scraps, mosquito larvae, and minute crustaceans and copepods. Being a carnivorous predator it must not be kept in a community aquarium, but only with others of its own kind. Its numbers have declined alarmingly in the last two decades and it is now an endangered species. If any specimens are collected for a period of study in a suitable fish tank, they should be released exactly where they had been found within the week.

Dicentrarchus labrax : Seabass (Spnotta in Maltese)

Photo from renotonna.yolasite.com

The sea-basses belong to a small family of elongated grey fishes that superficially resemble grey mullets. They are heavily built powerful predators that live near the coastline and often associate themselves with schools of grey mullets. When young they are gregarious and visit bays and harbours in shoals, looking for small fishes that they attack and devour mercilessly. They have two distinct dorsal fins, the first spiny and fan-shaped, and the second with one spine followed by a number of soft rays. There are three spines leading the anal fin and the tail fin is somewhat forked. The head, eyes and mouth are all moderately sized.

Max. length: 1m

Max. weight: 9kg

Characteristics:

A powerful stocky body, circular in cross section; conspicuous eyes; well developed strong jaws lined with fine teeth on the inside, the lower jaw protruding a little; the first gill cover has some spines on the lower edge and the second has no ridges; well attached, big cycloid scales cover the skin; the fins are short-based and well balanced, the tail fin is forked with a thick peduncle; dark brownish-grey on the back, with silvery-grey sides and almost white metallic belly.

Habits:

The European species inhabits the western Atlantic coasts, the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. This handsome fish travels during daytime from coast to coast, penetrating inshore waters to prey on small or young fishes, sand-eels, squids and crustaceans. Actually it attempts to swallow anything that moves, in fact the author has personally found a bird chick, a number of large flying ants, pieces of dead sea grass, and a bite of pizza, inside Seabass stomachs!

The young frequent bays and inlets and consume more invertebrates than adult fish do. The Seabass is a hardy fish found at all sorts of seabeds and even in brackish waters. When the sea is rough the adults are to be found at the surf zone, close to the shoreline, attacking the confused smaller fishes. This habit makes the Bass a favourite sporting fish, well known for the tenderness of its scrumptious white flesh.

This bass is bred and farmed extensively since it is a fast growing fish and very hardy. It is exquisite to eat, especially when it gets away from the fish farms and feeds on a natural diet for a week or more.

This fish may be found inside the Maghluq (fish ponds) of Marsaskala (Malta) It belongs there naturally, but is a threat to the killifish, being a predator. Together with the killifish, eels, and hundreds of other vertebrates and invertebrates, its numbers are always diminishing, mainly due to toxic chemicals leaching into the ponds from the Sant Antnin Recycling Plant as well as fertiliser farming and firework fallout.

Candidate Responses – Errol Cutajar

Development

1. What is your stance on the Jerma proposal as it currently stands? Should the LC be asked to vote on this in the future, how would you vote if the residential apartments remain part of the proposal?

I am not in favour of the project as proposed, since I think that high rise should never be on the agenda of any part of the coast or central areas in Marsaskala. I believe that should the site be redeveloped, it shouldn’t occupy more space than it currently does, perhaps less, if possible, but what is most important is that the current abandoned site should be demolished and removed as soon as possible, and left vacant until it is developed again…………should have been done, ages ago (It’s an eyesore and a place to attract squatters, dumping of rubbish, and other undesirable activities). I think that it should be rebuilt into a high rated Hotel (For Marsaskala lacks one at present, and is in dire need of one) though a small percentage say 10 – 15% Residential units within, wouldn’t do any harm, though if possible we are to avoid any residential units within the complex. I also believe that any remaining unbuilt up area within the complex and the foreshore, should be left open to the general public. 


2. What are your thoughts on the takeup of public land to build the Żonqor branch of the AUM? If you had to vote again in the future, would you be in favour of, or against the irreversible destruction of that area of Żonqor?

I am not in favour of the taking up of public land to built the Żonqor branch of AUM. The land has already been conceded to the developer, but as yet no development permits have been issued. I think we are still in a position to save Żonqor, and if there is any possibility  that a  vote is taken again, I would vote against. The reason, is not simply and solely due to the fact that ODZ land will be taken up, but also for a number of other reasons, such as;

1. I think that developing the area in a University and Dormitories (which are practically residential units to me – and a window to a change in program of works, along the way), in a prime, seaview area, would give rise to other surrounding ODZ land to become susceptible for development in the future;

2.The Żonqor area as a quiet, strictly residential area as we know it, (except for a few outlets), will become commercialised, there will be increase in traffic, and other issues which will definitely make the area more congested.

3. It will also result in loss of precious parking space, open to the general public, around the present pixxina, and loss of the present pixxina itself, which will bring about the necessity of building it up elsewhere in Marsaskala (as is being in fact proposed in the tas-Siberia Area – beneath the loġoġ).  Just have a simple look at what happened (those who can remember) to the then strictly residential areas in the vicinity of tal-Qroqq, Imsida. Żonqor will become the same, probably worse, because it is more prone to have more retail outlets given it is a coastal area. 

3. What are your thoughts about excessive development in general in Marsaskala? Our infrastructure is struggling to cope – how will you ensure that Marsaskala remains a residential village for families, as opposed to becoming another Sliema?

I don’t like to see Marsaskala become another Sliema. That is one of the reasons, (and I’m sure other Marsaskala residents, and others who frequent Marsaskala believe the same), that I prefer to live in Marsaskala rather than Sliema. Though I do acknowledge that development and progress cannot be halted, striking a balance in life is the best way to move along. I don’t mind that older buildings of no historical/architectural value, is pulled down to make way, for modern structures as long as it is done in a sustainable and sensible manner, and as long as it does not disturb the sky line (which mind you, the addition of extra floors policy by PA, within a short period of time is already disturbing it). That is, in itself an alternative way not to disturb any more ODZ land, unless it is a necessary evil, like the building of a school (as has happened recently). In doing so, we must always bring into mind the parking problem, which is increasing drastically with the increase of cars, with the pulling down of old buildings, thus resulting in loss of parking spaces to make way for garage complexes entrances. Perhaps schemes must be introduced so that any residential units built and sold, must always be linked to a sale of a garage, or else giving incentives to car owners for eg, in the form of rebates on their car licences, or rebates on tax on insurance policies, who leave/park their cars in garages (insurance wise, there is less risk on the vehicle), but I ackowledge the difficulty in monitoring the system).


4. What is your opinion on the preservation and creation of public open spaces in Marsaskala? What do you think about the building of new LC premises in Ġnien Sant’ Anna in the face of residents’ opposition?

Re public spaces I would prefer that they are conserved as much as possible, embellished, and left for the general public use, Building within them, should be strictly left, in case of necessity, if there is no alternative and as a measure of last resort. The LC premises is one of these necessary evils, like the building of a school. I think Marsaskala residents, deserve to have a decent LC building, which will definitely help the way the LC is administered, and make it better for people to get the services they deserve. Still, if there is a way wherein, this project may be incorporated in an existing but viable building with potential to expand, then that should remain the first option, and building it in the public open space should be avoided. I also understand that this area has been devolved to the LC, by the Central Government, so that is an additional cost to acquire land/property which has been saved by the council, making it possible to use the money for other projects. Perhaps extra pressure should be done on the central Goverment to acquire vacant property in the vicinity, and to devolve it to the local council. In any case, I hope that no trees, (protected or not) are destroyed in the process, as is being implied.   

5. What is your stance on the construction of an ODZ petrol station just opposite the Family Park?

My very  personal opinion is that I think, that a petrol station is required, when approaching Marsaskala. Marsaskala residents/visitors have to go either to Żabbar, Żejtun, or Għaxaq, to the next petrol station to refuel/wash/service their cars. What concerns me is that as we say in Maltese ‘mis-saba nieħdu l-id’, and bit by bit, the footprint of the committed land, will become larger. In that case, I am personally against any extension which is currently being proposed (not yet approved) of the same. Hopefully, as I am informed, this won’t be used as a trojan horse to get to build residential units on ODZ land, in the future (since the fossils fuels are to be phased out in due time).

6. What is your vision for the Sant’Antnin recycling plant once it it phased out? What would you wish to have instead of it?

RE re use of Sant Antnin, after it is phased out, I would like to see expansion of the Family Park/perhaps a larger car park (with environment friendly park and ride facilities towards central Marsaskala areas) to cater for the same, bicycle lanes, dog park,  etc etc, ….just thinking aloud.


7. Noise disturbance is an increasingly problematic issue. Would you consider fining contractors who disobey basic rules like working outside permitted hours?

Building Permits are issued with conditions, and that is one of the conditions, not to work during certain hours, so it is already so, all it requires is enforcement. Neighborhood disturbance is also a contravention at law, (the problem is that there are no written legal standards for sound levels). Each time someone is arraigned in court, a court expert has to be appointed to test the decibel noise level, and express his opinion on what is the world wide standard acceptable. We should have parameters established at law, but it should cater for particular situations and circumstances like excessive sound levels from establishments, and construction/works/implants. 


8. How will your service as a councillor improve the health of residents?

I think we should embark on an educational campaign for healthier life styles, – and making it easier for people to practice a sport, (Sport classes) and to eating healtly. (Educational programms). Creating more walkways, in Żonqor for eg, and other areas etc etc. Improving existing pavements and walk ways.

9. Parking is increasingly a problem, yet measures to promote active means of transport such as cycling have thus far been actively discouraged (e.g. removal of the cycle lane along Triq is-Salini). Will you actively encourage cycling and walking in Marsaskala? How?

In Marsaskala we have the luxury, of a ‘U’ or more likely ‘V’ shaped coast, which is a bit more than 3km long – excluding the San Tumas, triq il-Qaliet Promenade (if I remember well from my running days, which I miss due to increased working schedule – should find the time to revert to it any way, not an excuse☺).  Do we need to improve it ? yes of course. With respect to cycling I think, we cannot have the cake and eat it, as they say. Yes I don’t think it was right to remove the cycle lane, to be used for parking, but then again, it was a measure to partly address the parking problem. One can ride a bike in the road in any case, so it is rather an argument in favour of safe cycling, though I don’t expect professional bicycle riders going to and fro, ‘Tal-Fanal Restaurant’ up till Jerma site, only. It was rather more of a safe bicycle lane for children, and safer for pedestrians to walk on pavements without having bicycles around. We can, as I said in my answer no 8, create more pathways/walkways in areas, which may also be accompanied by a decent bike lanes.
You forgot to ask me about the possibility of land reclamation which might include Marsaskala too. I am against, and I will vote against if I’m ever asked to vote. 


Environment and litter

1. Do you think there is a problem with rubbish and dog litter in Marsaskala? What do you plan to do about it?

There is. There are laws also. As I said before, the magic word is ‘enforcement’, which is currently on the disappearing side rather than on the appearing side, when it comes to comparing it with magic.


2. Will you be willing to speak to restaurant owners and require a bin outside their premises?

I believe that that is already a requirement, but again, we need some magic. Yes, I am willing to communicate anything to anyone which may be beneficial to our locality. Having a tidy environment is not solely for the benefit of residents/visitors as against the benefit of restaurant owners. I think it is wrong to make both compete with each other, they should complement each other, for it is also in the restaurant owners’ interest to see that the surrounding environment is kept clean, in order to keep on improving their own commercial goodwill.


3. What effective enforcement strategies would you put in place for those who do not follow rules?

Breaking the law should have its consequences, fining, losing a licence, anything which is in the law books, but as long as a fair hearing is guaranteed (for that is also required at law).


Citizen Involvement

1.Currently, groups of residents are only allowed to speak at local council meetings once a year. Will you consider the possibility of engaging more publicly with groups of citizens during local council meetings once in office? How would you do this?

The rules are to be followed with respect to Local Council meetings, but that doesn’t mean that the Local Council shouldn’t engage in organising consultation meetings as is necessary with the public to gauge their opinion, or getting to voice their opinions informally whilst the Local Council Meeting is not in session. Though presence/participation of the general public in these meetings are a bit low (but I can understand that too – see my answer to the following question).


2. Will you make an effort to regularly notify citizens of important council matters via the (thus far) rarely updated website, offical FaceBook page, and any other means?

Yes I believe the public should be informed regularly. Yes I believe the official website/Face book page needs to be overhauled and updated regularly according to modern standards. People today are busy, going on with their own lives, (and that may be the reason for lack of presence/participation), and this has to be recognised, but may be addressed by a very well organised Official Website/Facebook page and any other online tools wherein citizens can complain, suggest, make a proposal, report, but they should be heard, and given a reply, perhaps interact live too.


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1. Give me one good reason why you deserve the vote and the trust of the residents of Marsaskala.

This is a very difficult question to reply.  It is my first time to contest the Local Council Elections, so I cannot vouch on my delivery/past performance. In my work as a freelance lawyer I have always put priority to my client’s needs and requirements, and to be of service. My intention is to do the same with my political work, this time towards the resident/trader/visitor of our locality. Though I never promise anything which I know before hand that it is not attainable. I prefer to tell people how things stand, rather than giving them credit when it is not due, or telling them, that they have a right when they don’t, simply to keep them hoping.


2. If you were granted three personal wishes for Marsaskala – no limits, everything is possible. What would those wishes be? What is your vision for Marsaskala?

i). Rescinding the Contract with Sadeen with respect to the Żonqor Land Concession.

ii). Building 3 underground car parks – in 3 different Zones (on of them central area).

iii). Widening parts of the coast road in Żonqor area (where possible), to make way for diagonal parking spaces).
There are many, many more, but you only asked for three. Pity. ☺

3. What result do you want to achieve, if elected for the coming five years for Marsaskala residents?

Back to reality ☺. I would like to see more police rounds, a proper police station (we need to send a professional approach message, plus it’s not fair for the police officers to work in a cubicle). Security is a concern for the residents and we have a duty to make what is logically possible in our remit to put their mind at rest. I want to see a well balanced approach, between the interests of the residents, the traders (who earn their living from their commercial establishments), and the visitors, they should never be seen to be competing with each other. Pressure on the competent authorities to embark in a project to repair the shore-keys, which have collapsed, and to make them accessible again for the general public, to make use of them especially during summer. 

   
4. What can we hold you accountable for?

My commitment to be truly of service to the people without fear or favour.

Update: Candidates and their responses

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Almost two months ago, we contacted 10 Marsaskala local council candidates, and posed questions to them about our locality, their vision for it, and their stance on certain issues that affect our town.

An additional candidate was contacted on 06/05/2019, bringing the total number of candidates up to 11 . The full list of contacted candidates can be seen in the original post here.

2 other candidates, Patrick Camilleri and John Baptist Camilleri have replied to our questions, bringing the total to 5 candidates who have replied. We thank all respondents for their time; we do appreciate the busy schedules that elections bring with them.

In less than a week’s time, it will be voting day; we urge other candidates to respond to ensure a level playing field and a well-informed electorate. We hope that our readers will take the time to read through these replies, go out to vote, and make an informed choice next Saturday.

Candidate Responses – John Baptist Camilleri

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Development.

  1. What is your stance on the Jerma proposal as it currently stands? Should the LC be asked to vote on this in the future, how would you vote if the residential apartments remain part of the proposal?

To start with, I honestly believe that a high rating hotel is an asset for Marsaskala. My top concern is to have a hotel that will replace the vacuum felt in the area after the Jerma closure. If I had the option to choose, we definitely have enough apartments and I prefer that there will be NO apartments. But in today’s trend of hotels, most hotels are opting to have a mix of apartments and hotel; if a small number, say, not exceeding 10 to 20 percent, might be considered as a last option. However, this would better be discussed in more detail as the size of the apartments plays a big part and they must not be of an eyesore nor be tall buildings.

The Jerma area will be embellished and all the vacated open space and shore made open to the public.

2. What are your thoughts on the takeup of public land to build the Żonqor branch of the AUM? If you had to vote again in the future, would you be in favour of, or against the irreversible destruction of that area of Żonqor?

Regarding Żonqor AUM, I was opposing this since it was announced and will not stop opposing it, come what may. Also against the dormitory as this is NOT mentioned here.

3. What are your thoughts about excessive development in general in Marsaskala? Our infrastructure is struggling to cope – how will you ensure that Marsaskala remains a residential village for families, as opposed to becoming another Sliema?

When Marsaskala was being planned on the drawing board it was surely not the idea to have all this development with so many medium-rise buildings. Unfortunately, the building heights are controlled by the PA; if I was given a chance as a local Councillor, I would have objected and will object to the addition of more floors within a span of a very short period of time in most of the streets.

4. What is your opinion on the preservation and creation of public open spaces in Marsaskala? What do you think about the building of new LC premises in Ġnien Sant’ Anna in the face of residents’ opposition?

Public spaces should be preserved and if possible embellished. Regarding building the L/C office in a part of this open space, it merits a detailed reply, not just a “yes” or “no”. First of all, when this was being converted from an abandoned field during my childhood, it was always planned to have a civic centre build adjacent to the Boċċi Club. This was evident by the paved area and sewage connection to prevent from digging the area for the service connection once the building is complete. At the beginning of the first local council it was already felt that this will be transformed into an L/C office to serve the needs of today; the plans were improved again to incorporate a small clinic.

Building permits were issued, funds accumulated and the land was devolved to the LC. However, we have studied the possibility to host this in an already existing building in nearby areas to serve this purpose; I believe that this is still on the table if an alternative site that will be made available for this is found; I urge you to come forward if it’s the case. I strongly believe that our residents and the elderly merit to have a decent office to serve the basic local council needs, not to mention other issues like say, the high rent being paid to keep our current offices open.

5. What is your stance on the construction of an ODZ petrol station just opposite the Family Park?

Regarding fuel station, although the permit for the petrol station is already approved, despite the fact that the fossil fuels will be phased out, I have objected to have it extended when it was discussed at the L/C. The permit for the extension is still not approved.

6. What is your vision for the Sant’Antnin recycling plant once it it phased out? What would you wish to have instead of it?

If the plant is removed I think it will be ideal to make a skate / BMX park and similar sports, outdoor sport such as tennis and similar sports. A type of open space with pet friendly locations, possibly a good car park and offer a type of an electric driven park and ride to nearby areas.

7. Noise disturbance is an increasingly problematic issue. Would you consider fining contractors who disobey basic rules like working outside permitted hours?

Noise pollution is a national level problem and the state must build the necessary legislation and tools to monitor the DB level and be more vigilant on abusers. Those contractors who abuse will lose the money deposit (bond) they have to pay before commencing the project, and be black-listed for abusing the law.

8. How will your service as a councillor improve the health of residents?

I will work for better accessibility on pavements, monitoring air quality and clamping down on polluters. I will work harder for a better public transport service, promote healthy eating by educating the old and the new generation alike. Also, I will encourage more walking and cycling.

9. Parking is increasingly a problem, yet measures to promote active means of transport such as cycling have thus far been actively discouraged (e.g. removal of the cycle lane along Triq is-Salini). Will you actively encourage cycling and walking in Marsaskala? How?

In the past I have actively worked hard until a good footpath was established that links the Żonqor HOS area with the village centre; this promoted walking to the school and church rather to go with private transport. Also pushed the LC to lay a good surface in another footpath between Maħsel and Qaliet street.  Regarding the cycling lane, it was a beginning for Malta and I think it could have been improved as it was not extensively utilised. I was abroad when this was discussed and removed; I honestly wish that cycling can be promoted better. As a local council we have installed a number of bicycle racks which again are hardly used. Maybe we can invest or promote the renting of bicycles or similar gear.

Environment and litter.

  1. Do you think there is a problem with rubbish and dog litter in Marsaskala? What do you plan to do about it?

Yes, more than 1 problem. We need better education and eventually fining the abusers of pet owners leaving a mess all over the place. Secondly, the bins must be emptied and cleaned /disinfected much more frequently.

2. Will you be willing to speak to restaurant owners and require a bin outside their premises?

As far as I know the laws regulating their waste are there, they just need implementation and communication with the owners is a must.

3. What effective enforcement strategies would you put in place for those who do not follow rules?

Who does not follow the rules will be fined and if the abuse is not stopped, the L/C will recommend that the competent authority will not renew the licence to operate if they persist with the abuse.

Citizen Involvement.

  1. Currently, groups of residents are only allowed to speak at local council meetings once a year. Will you consider the possibility of engaging more publicly with groups of citizens during local council meetings once in office? How would you do this?

The rules that are stipulated with regards to meetings are quite clear and I think they must be respected. However, if certain issues are being discussed during a normal L/C meeting and residents would like to give their views, it happened a few times where I requested the suspension of the meeting to allow the residents to speak; once they air their views then the sitting will continue as usual. However, I am not happy with the number of residents attending the L/C annual meeting. I wish more residents participated.

2. Will you make an effort to regularly notify citizens of important council matters via the (thus far) rarely updated website, official FaceBook page, and any other means?

Definitely a more efficient website/page can help this communication issue.

Generic.

  1. Give me one good reason why you deserve the vote and the trust of the residents of Marsaskala

I have proven that I am committed to my home town for the past 22 years.

2. If you were granted three personal wishes for Marsaskala – no limits, everything is possible. What would those wishes be? What is your vision for Marsaskala?

Wish one is a new underground road to be built to make way for traffic flow and closing Marina street for pedestrians only.  This will be coupled with a good sized underground car park between the church and St. Anne’s Primary school and Ta’ Monita. 

Wish 2 will be to use a good part of the vacated promenade for artists performing their pieces such as paintings and similar hand crafts while the pedestrians / visitors can also see and purchase the goods. NOT A MARKET. Solely hand crafted goods.

Wish 3 will be to upgrade and restore all the sites of historical importance; buildings and fortifications from the small sites to the St. Thomas tower and the Magħluq and restore them to a very high level of safety and easily visited and compile a booklet coupled with modern applications on mobile phones to explain the details of such buildings.  

I wish I had more wishes, but you asked for 3.

3. What result do you want to achieve, if elected for the coming five years for Marsaskala residents?

I want to see a cleaner, more organised, and safer Marsaskala. Also, as mentioned in a previous answer, an improved public transport schedule / system, and associated infrastructure like bus shelters.

4. What can we hold you accountable for?

My past, working unconditionally with more than 25 elected Councillors and 3 Mayors. I will continue to help all the cultural and sport organisations including the Parish and feast organisation groups.

Candidate Responses – Patrick Camilleri

1. What is your stance on the Jerma proposal as it currently stands? Should the LC be asked to vote on this in the future, how would you vote if the residential apartments remain part of the proposal?

There seems to be general consensus that the Jerma building should make way to new development.

I believe in sustainable development where economic growth should be adequately balanced with ample environmental improvement. As proposed, the new establishment such as a hotel and residential units will occupy a much smaller area than the current one. It will therefore be complemented with an adjacent open space which I believe can serve for anyone to enjoy the harmonious balance between nature, modernity and in this case our historical heritage in the area, that is St Thomas Tower with its timely upgraded plaza.

Obviously demolishing and construction should be performed under strict scrutiny to safeguard the residences in the surrounding area. On another note if this development were to materialise it must not be seen in isolation and the benefits that can potentially be reaped with this development can only be fully achieved with a holistic improvement to the whole area.

2. What are your thoughts on the take up of public land to build the Żonqor branch of the AUM? If you had to vote again in the future, would you be in favour of, or against the irreversible destruction of that area of Żonqor?

Rather than leaving it as is, I prefer if the area will be rehabilitated into a dense woodland and populated with indigenous trees. Then again if the area will be used to develop an extension to the AUM, we must not forget that the proposed constructed area has been substantially reduced. Looking at things from a different perspective, in the eventuality that AUM will open an annex in our town one must not neglect that this can serve to brand our locality as a University village with potential attraction of other educational and other business enterprises that may be attracted to the region. If the area were to be developed I prefer to secure the land as a University and accompanying woodland/park with ample cycling, walking and running tracks that connect Marsaskala to Xghajra than anything else.

3. What are your thoughts about excessive development in general in Marsaskala? Our infrastructure is struggling to cope – how will you ensure that Marsaskala remains a residential village for families, as opposed to becoming another Sliema?

The local council seems to have limited say on urban development. There is no magic wand to resolve the issue of population increase except either increase building height or take more virgin land.

In context of the rapid increase in population, one must ensure that newly erected buildings must be complemented with adequate parking bays. One must also not forget that the wellbeing in our community does not stop at the doorstep but continues outside. Thus, the importance to safeguard our heritage and replenish public areas with indigenous trees that can withstand heat, provide shade and shelter for birds and enhance the quality of air. Like other areas we are already experiencing a high building density, but the creation of a ‘green belt’ with a robust presence of trees to demarcate the confines of our locality can be an initiative to start to balance things out.

4. What is your opinion on the preservation and creation of public open spaces in Marsaskala? What do you think about the building of new LC premises in Ġnien Sant’ Anna in the face of residents’ opposition?

The various facets of Marsaskala including the sea, the fishing community, our promenade, commercial outlets, village feast and family park, all compliment to attract crowds of visitors with their cars, with a detriment to the quality of the air. As I reiterated before there is no straightforward solution to urbanisation and while complaints are common, proposed solutions that can help the LC should also be put forward.

Marsaskala and St Thomas bay lie between Żonqor and Munxar, both of which require close attention in their own respect. Again, objectively speaking, in the eventuality that AUM will be set up at Żonqor, the rural area must be conserved and permanently designed to harbour indigenous trees where people and families can go to recreate themselves, read a book, enjoy sunrise and appreciate the unique open views of the Mediterranean Sea. During my walks at Munxar I could not but sadly see that it is inexorably becoming a construction dump site. I am sincerely grateful to see clean-up initiatives organised by residents. Yet, keeping a vigilant eye by setting up more CCTV cameras to limit illegal dumping will help so that the work these people do will not be lost.

In respect to Saint Anne’s garden my impression is that the local council office and civic centre are to complement Saint Anne’s garden which incidentally is also going to be duly upgraded. Then again it is the outcome of the consensus achieved by the members of the exiting LC and I may not have the whole picture to pass judgement.

5. What is your stance on the construction of an ODZ petrol station just opposite the Family Park ?

I prefer not to comment on something for which a decision has already been made.

6. What is your vision for the Sant’Antnin recycling plant once it phased out? What would you wish to have instead of it?

It can become a major project for further regeneration of the South of Malta. I suppose that the area can first be used to extend the limits of the family park adding more indigenous trees as part of the green belt and air enhancement initiative around all of Marsaskala. It can also be complemented by a large underground reservoir to ensure that the park and surroundings remain green all year round. Complementing this I envisage the development of tennis court(s) next to the football grounds. Adding more open green space is always a gain. Yet, if the rest is to be developed differently I imagine that it can include commercial premises and space for an open market, cultural and social events which, accompanied with ample available parking would reduce congestion closer to the sea front.

The area can also serve to provide the much-required building space for the local village feast enthusiasts who play an important role to safeguard local heritage, offer an alternative to the younger generation keeping them away from other vices and allowing the old church at La Sengle street, currently serving as a store and workshop, to be restored to its original beauty. The area can also be complimented with public transportation and bicycles to commute to and from the promenade.

7. Noise disturbance is an increasingly problematic issue. Would you consider fining contractors who disobey basic rules like working outside permitted hours?

While it falls out of LC control, there are specific sound regulations that control how construction work is performed. If these are breached than those involved should be immediately stopped.

8. How will your service as a councillor improve the health of residents?

I quit smoking 16 years ago and been physically active most of my life. We have currently exchanged one of our family cars with a smaller hybrid one and where possible I commute on foot. We consider health and wellbeing as a prerogative and sound investment. When I can, during my early morning runs or walks (depending on my mood) I proudly post photos of our majestic sunrises on social media, so safeguarding clean air and open spaces is very important for me.

As a locality, we must acquire a beneficial holistic mental and physical healthy living approach that includes everyone. Wherever possible we should also tap and incentivise the talent in our locality to step forward and help the LC achieve such initiatives through open-air training sessions which besides giving more value to our open spaces, will also blur further the delineation between the LC and residents. We must ensure support to local talent, incentivising residents to step forward with initiatives to back existing sports clubs including the boċċi club. Curating talks by professionals in our village, organising country walks and astronomy evenings will not only cater for the joy of knowledge and mental wellbeing but it can also (hopefully) safeguard the beauty of our locality better through the apprehended appreciation that will ensue.

9. Transport such as cycling have thus far been actively discouraged (e.g. removal of the cycle lane along Triq is-Salini). Will you actively encourage cycling and walking in Marsaskala? How?

There is a difference between wishful thinking and reality and a difference between what one can promise and what can be achieved. I am not in favour of the removal of the cycle lane in Triq is-Salini, then again it lacked continuity. If it were for me we will have a whole network of cycle lanes that will connect the whole island but space and road width are what they are.

We also have a problem with cars that is not easily tackled especially because for most of the population, cars are an extension of the body. I prefer that if this is to be taken seriously then we must be proactive and come up with tangible solutions. Putting back the limited cycle lane on Triq is-Salini will not resolve the issue of alternative transport. Rather it will squeeze ensuing parking in the surrounding streets which are already packed with cars and increase frustration among residents.

One must also not forget the topography of our locality. Most of Malta is hilly and not everyone is apt to commute on foot with children, shopping and shopping bags in any weather especially hot weather which is prevalent for us. Power assisted bicycles will surely help but again there are various facets to the issue such as social, economic, cultural and other that must be considered if we are to act holistically for all the forms that sustainable development can enact. Adding bicycle parking spaces, and connecting Żonqor to Xgħajra with foot paths and cycle lanes will be a good start. But soliciting for a serious discussion of a well-set local and social plan with interested parties is important to foster a greener mentality in both the adult and rising generation

10. Do you think there is a problem with rubbish and dog litter in Marsaskala? What do you plan to do about it?

Yes, there is. It is not the first time that I caught on camera people in front of my house who pick up dog litter with one hand and immediately throw it away in a plastic bag with the other hand. Then there are also a very few others who draw a blind eye while their pet is doing its job. The waterfront on Triq is-Salini is also frequently marked with ‘skid marks’. Then again it is not the first time that, while commuting I stop and thank the many responsible people who pick their dog litter and dispose of it properly

Increasing litter bins with well-planned times for litter collection in various areas helps, but I believe that, where proof of broken rules is tangible, fines should be issued.

11. Will you be willing to speak to restaurant owners and require a bin outside their premises?

Albeit that this is not in the LCs remit, we all know that lack of hygiene pushes crowds away. It is therefore in the interest of restaurant owners to have surroundings clean. Thus, where required bins should be added and rubbish collection should become more frequent especially in summer and during weekends. Also, restaurant owners should at least be encouraged to separate rubbish at source inside their premises.

12. What effective enforcement strategies would you put in place for those who do not follow rules?

Anyone who does not abide to the rules should be held responsible and face consequences as dictated by the law.

13. Currently, groups of residents are only allowed to speak at local council meetings once a year. Will you consider the possibility of engaging more publicly with groups of citizens during local council meetings once in office? How would you do this?

As a new candidate, there are things that I still have to learn. But, as can be observed, even from this questionnaire and the initiative to share on social media I form part of a community that can think, reason out and that I believe can possibly and constructively liaise to suggest solutions. So, if it can be done, then yes especially with those who are capable of formulating awareness, suggest and discuss outcomes.

14. Will you make an effort to regularly notify citizens of important council matters via the (thus far) rarely updated website, official Facebook page, and any other means?

The fact that most of us are digital citizens and are capable to reach out through our screens anywhere at any time has allowed me to thoroughly base my campaign through social media. The number of thriving pages on Facebook Social on Marsaskala are in themselves proof on how strong social media is. I will see that the website like other social media pages will appropriately serve its purpose.

15. Give me one good reason why you deserve the vote and the trust of the residents of Marsaskala

It irks me when I read comments by certain members of the community who try to threat prospective candidates with their vote. I believe that, like me, those who decide to run for local council do it because they have their locality at heart. Thus, there is no other reason for running for local council except for what I think I can give when it comes to the wellbeing of my town. I am sincere, transparent and straight to the point but always ready to learn. At this point in time, being new to the council and political mechanisms, what I believe is not achievable I cannot promise, else I will be lying. Hopefully I will contribute to make Marsaskala a better place for everyone.

I understand that I can never see the whole picture on my own and constantly testing the waters helps. So, I will always be open to suggestions and more so to solutions.

16. If you were granted three personal wishes for Marsaskala – no limits, everything is possible. What would those wishes be? What is your vision for Marsaskala?

a. Firstly I wish that parking problems will become something of the past. Hopefully I will live to see less parking problems with less cars, more parking spaces and better use of alternative modes of transportation.

b. Secondly, I wish that when I look on both sides of our bay, Jerma or not, AUM or not, my view would also be limited by woodlands. There are many beautiful seaside locations all over Europe where a healthy balance has been achieved between the environment and urbanisation. This can also be enhanced if more roof owners make best use of their space with roof gardens like I did at home.

c. Thirdly if we intend to safeguard land then buildings will inexorably get higher. I do not believe that there is a law that safeguards solar rights but if someone invested precious savings in PV systems and solar water heaters and eventually ends up in perennial shade because of adjoining high-rise buildings, then developers should be held responsible to provide space on their roofs where shadowed alternative energy systems can be installed.

17. What result do you want to achieve, if elected for the coming five years for Marsaskala residents?

Again, I prefer to use ‘wish’ and not ‘want’. I may want the non-attainable but as a council we can always aim to see that what one wishes becomes true.

I hope that we will be able to conserve what we have and make other things better. Apart from the fact that conserving what has already been done is a handful there is much more that can be achieved on social, economic and environment levels. I hope that in the end Marsaskala will become greener and a living example of balanced sustainable development. We can pledge for more trees even by adopting mature ones that are inexorably being uprooted to make way for new development elsewhere. Ultimately, I hope that I can feast my eyes on more wooded open spaces that can be used to facilitate the organisation of various local social activities that intentionally can include all of the community.

I want to safeguard and enhance what makes us Maltese and incentivise local village feast organisers to work in better conditions.

I will also work to conserve our historical heritage. A lot has been done but I am sure there is always more to do.

We must also protect our sea and find a viable solution for the fish farms which though economically important are detrimental to the achievement of a cleaner sea and wellbeing.

As an educator I look forward to enhance residents’ awareness and appreciation towards our locality make cleanliness a social responsibility.

18. What can we hold you accountable for?

Sincerity and transparency. My experience may be limited but, in my intervention, I tried to be as realistic and practical as possible.
I intend to talk less so I can hear more what residents will have to suggest.
The rest will hopefully follow once I can see a better picture of the outside from inside the council.