Ramblers to appeal court decision on Aħrax and Miżieb deal

The Ramblers’ Association will appeal  tribunel decision to uphold the government’s deal with the FKNK over the land

The Ramblers’ Association will be appealing a court decision not to annul a government deed that granted the guardianship of the l-Aħrax and Miżieb woodlands to the hunting lobby FKNK.

Last week, the Administrative Review Tribunal dismissed two lawsuits filed against the Lands Authority by BirdLife Malta, Moviment Graffitti, Din l-Art Ħelwa, Friends of the Earth Malta, Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar, Dr Edward Mallia and The Ramblers’ Association.

In both cases, all organisations requested that the court revoke and annul an agreement awarded to the FKNK by the Ministry of the Environment to manage and operate the Miżieb and Aħrax Reserves.

“Despite this decision, the association believes that there are strong grounds for an appeal and wishes to announce that it will be appealing this decision in the coming days. In this way, the association will continue in its efforts to guarantee an unrestricted right of public access for all the inhabitants of the Maltese islands to these territories.”

On 25 January, in two 25-page judgments, the Tribunal dismissed all allegations and complaints made by the associations and upheld the agreement in its original form.

“There was nothing irregular or illegal in its decision and in the subsequent agreement that the Lands Authority made with FKNK,” the judgement said, according to FKNK.

The court went a step further and stated that the agreement simply formalised what had been going on for years.

It disagreed with the NGO's assertion that the public will be barred from enjoying the Reserves, and while dismissing such an allegation, it stated that the agreement says that the general public “is not forbidden access to these sites at large times when hunting is not taking place and the sites can be enjoyed freely.

“Unlike other lands that the Government grants to the private sector and even to other voluntary associations, this site will not be closed with any gate or one will have to pay to access it.  This site will remain open so it can be enjoyed by everyone except for limited periods and times.”

The Tribunal also rebutted arguments that the Lands Authority failed to fulfill its obligations by imposing the agreed fee. "This is also being said in the light of the information provided by Lino Farrugia, which information has not been denied in any way by the applicant BirdLife Malta, which same organization receives one hundred and fifty thousand euros as a grant per year to support its activities."