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‘Park has been abandoned’

Majjistral, Malta’s first national park.

Majjistral, Malta’s first national park.

Majjistral Park has been abandoned by the Rural Affairs Ministry, an NGO contracted to manage it has claimed.

The ministry has “persistently failed to honour its financial commitments related to management fees for 2011 and 2012,” the Gaia Foundation said yesterday.

Gaia is one of the three NGOs contracted by the ministry to manage Malta’s first national park through the Heritage Parks Federation.

Federation treasurer Rudolf Ragonesi, who is also Gaia’s CEO, said management fees had never been paid on time since the contract was signed five years ago, causing serious delays in implementing the management plan and restoration works on site.

“The situation has deteriorated to an all-time low, with the ministry falling back two years in arrears,” Dr Ragonesi said.

The federation claimed in November it was promised that the full payment of the €140,000 arrears would be made by January 2013, but again this was not forthcoming.

On Tuesday, the NGO received €28,000, covering less than the first five months for 2011, it said.

To make matters worse, Dr Ragonesi said, the Manufacturing Services Department within the ministry demanded full payment upfront when contracted by the federation to construct apertures on the derelict Għajn Tuffieħa barracks and Għajn Żnuber Tower, which would have prevented further vandalism and squatting.

Despite reservations, the federation paid €5,112 last July to the department to construct doors for the barracks, yet these have not been delivered.

The federation also said it failed to understand how the park, which was mostly made up of land falling within the Natura 2000 boundaries, has remained under the remit of the Rural Affairs Ministry rather than the Environment Ministry, which is legally responsible for Natura 2000 sites.

Majjistral Park in the northwest of Malta includes the coastal area from Golden Bay from to Il-Prajjet and ix-Xagħra l-Ħamra.

When contacted yesterday the ministry said it would be issuing a detailed reply today.

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