A boost for the future of forestry on the North Island

Rural dividend grants for the region include $500,000 for the establishment of an "academy of excellence in forestry"

  • Mar. 9, 2017 7:00 a.m.

JOHN HARDING

editor@northislandgazette.com

North Island communities will get more than $870,000 worth of grant money in an effort to create jobs in forestry and other projects, the provincial government announced Friday.

Port McNeill Mayor Shirley Ackland said $500,000 granted to the Regional District of Mount Waddington (RDMW) will be used to “build a foundation for an academy of excellence in forestry.”

Ackland said the money will be used to set up a school of sorts, an academy that aims to create interest in forestry jobs and teaches people best practices.

“Right now, anyone who wants to work in forestry leaves the North Island,” said Ackland. “This is about bringing the training here.”

It’s also about getting young people interested in careers in forestry, and other fields like biology and environmental sciences, she said.

“Many people who work today in the industry are getting ready to retire,” said Ackland, who estimated 80 per cent of her town’s economy is derived from the forest industry.

The provincial election is set for May 9. There was no immediate response from the NDP on Friday’s announcements by the B.C. Liberals. Ackland, the Port McNeill mayor who also sits on the board of the RDMW, seemed to be well aware of the politics involved.

“I’m sure the cheque can’t be cashed until May 10,” she said.

The money announced Friday is part of $3.6 billion the provincial government says it will invest in economic development activities targeted at rural communities in 2016/17. The province says these investments support key initiatives.

The province said this includes capital investments, improving connectivity and transportation infrastructure, providing close-to-home skills training, increasing economic competitiveness, attracting new investment, expanding opportunities for youth, and partnering with Aboriginal communities.

More than $871,700 under the Rural Dividend Fund was announced Friday for projects in six North Island communities.

In addition to the $500,000 referenced above, there were these funding announcements:

• $100,000 for the Nanwakolas Council Society to deliver job readiness and skills training to youth.

• $91,720 for the Village of Zeballos to develop local trails.

• $90,000 for the Dzawada’enuxw First Nation to hire and train local workers and develop an overnight accommodation business in Kingcome Village.

• $80,000 for the Village of Port Alice to support the redevelopment, expansion, and increased services for a campground.

• $10,000 for Port McNeill Kids in Motion Society to develop a summer camp geared for local youth with a focus on physical activity, health, and nutrition.

Said Andy Adams, mayor of Campbell River:

“As mayor of a resource dependent community, I welcome the investments government is making in trades training for our young people and the investment in North Island College’s Campbell River campus, which will attract more young people to our community.”

— with files from B.C. gov’t