in Mellieha, a Tourist Resort in Northwestern Malta, Instead
There Will be a National Park
June 2007 - The Prime Minister of Malta and his government have put a stop to the development of a golf course in Xaghra l-Hamra, near the seaside resort town of Mellieha.
P.M. Dr Lawrence Gonzi said that the return of investment simply wasn’t enough unless it was supported by urban development as well. So, instead of a golf course, there will be a national park. The government and two other interested parties are involved, including Nature Trust Malta.
Building of urban properties was a possibility, but as the idea opposed governmental strategy to retain a rustic nature for the area, it was quickly rejected.
Dr Gonzi explained that the coming park would be as large as 370 football pitches. It would stretch from one side of the island to the other, the western side touching on Anchor Bay, which is occupied by Popeye Village, the location of the film, ‘Popeye’. Popeye Village is a well-established tourist destination, so it will complement the new Park.
In 2004 the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA) pinpointed five sites for golf development, believing – as do many countries – that golf is vital for potential inward investment and tourism. Perhaps now the MEPA will look at other options; golf is not the only earner! For example, the coastline of Malta, and its sister island, Gozo, though largely rough terrain, have many coves to take marinas and divers.
Even the Malta R.C. churches are against a course at Mellieha. They correctly said that development of courses would detract from Malta’s treasure – its history. If that is ignored, the churches said, then Malta would lose its identity and quality of life. I tend to agree.
There is an existing golf course at Marsa. The Prime Minister feels that there should be at least one course on each island, but perhaps this is defeatist, if not desperate, when there are so many other possibilities. A chat with Istria’s tourism office, which is developing a multi-use approach to tourism, would reveal quite a number of them!
Frankly, any more than one course per island would be sufficient. Both Malta and Gozo are too small to ecologically sustain more, and existing visitable countryside needs to be both cherished and nourished. Malta’s strength is in its rich history; it is feasible that it would lose its charm by bringing in too many courses that take up so much land.
Already, the wonderful ancient buses and cars, working relics of pre-Second World War, have just about vanished. With them went much that tourists came to see! It is hoped that Malta will not become just another clone of easy-visit, universal-attraction themes. These can be found everywhere… but Malta is unique and should stay that way.
Even today, one can drive around roads that resemble lace – bits of tarmac joined by holes! But, they are part of the joy of visiting this heroic Island. And a walk in Maltese countryside can yield interesting finds. On a walk from the Red Fort on the edge of Mellieha to the western ridge, you will pass hunters’ huts, the remains of bird-catching traps, farmers’ stone round huts, and, at the end on the ridge, a now disused radar-sounding station from WW2. And the scenery from that point is amazing, over towards Gozo. If a golf course went there, for example, all that would disappear!
In 2005 the Malta Labour Party urged the government to rethink its decision to develop the Mellieha site for golf. They pointed out that government policy stated that any golf course should not use good agricultural land. That is fair enough, because what exists is in small bits, dotted about the island. Malta is dry and arid, all-brown, in summer, the stone and houses blending together as one, and blazing with colour and flowers the rest of the time. Golf courses would cause the dramatic seasonal changes to flatten out to sameness.
Also, the policy required that the infrastructure needed for a course should not impact on the environment. A third requirement was that a golf course should be built near the biggest tourist centres. These are near Bugibba and Valletta, south of Mellieha, and not at Mellieha (which is en-route to the Gozo ferry, but is a small urban town. It’s attractions are linked to its history, not to golf). As a Maltaphile I must agree with the Maltese government’s decision!
Malta, along with Cyprus, has moved from ‘stable’ to ‘positive’, according to Moodys, the international credit rating agency. The new rating, given in the past few weeks, is the result of being given the go-ahead to join the ‘Eurozone’ by the EU.
© Barry Napier
|Also See:||The Malta Tourism Authority Appoints Michael Piscopo as Director of North America; #1 Goal – Increase Tourism to Malta from the U.S. Market / Feb 2003|
|The 451 room InterContinental Malta Owned by Eden Leisure Group Opens; Located on St George's Bay Near Valletta, Malta / March 2003|