Port McNeill Mayor Shirley Ackland was pleased to announce that the Regional District of Mount Waddington (RDMW) and Western Forest Products (WFP) are working together to mend fences.
The issues between the two have been dominating local media for the past few months, with the RDMW taking WFP to task on two different occasions for its business practices, most notably the closure of the 100-year-old Englewood logging train in Woss.
Ackland spoke at Port McNeill’s last council meeting on April 16, stating she has recently had a conversation with WFP. “Many of you have seen in the newspaper over the last few months that we have had a couple of issues, and we have come together to try and figure out the best way to find solutions around (the issues).”
Ackland added she was pleased to report that “The communication we’ve been able to have has helped us find some solutions… I was phoned last week and told that employees will be going back to a five-day, two-day weekend schedule in Woss, which will mean people will have the same weekends as their kids playing soccer and hockey, and that will be helpful to families to help coordinate their weekends.”
Ackland noted WFP has agreed to help the community out by paying to send first responders down to Victoria for training, are currently working with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to create a pull out lane for the Kilpala Road, and that WFP’s logging trucks have stopped using the highway when coming north towards Beaver Cove.
“There’s very few logging trucks on the road now compared to a few months ago,” noted Ackland, who also pointed out WFP sponsored six students for the Woss Forestry program, and WFP’s placards will also be updated and placed on all their trucks in the very near future.
“I’m incredibly pleased that they’ve been very open and willing to have conversations to work on some of these problems,” concluded Ackland, “and I’m thrilled that we are getting there.”
Port Hardy Mayor Hank Bood, who was another vocal advocate against WFP’s recent business decisions, stated there has been “a change in attitude as far as WFP goes, as they have actually taken several steps to address the concerns that myself and others have brought up.”
Bood added WFP’s “social license to operate here is what we have been talking about all along — they’ve made the effort to come to the District of Port Hardy and the Regional District of Mount Waddington for some high level discussions and I feel we are moving in the right direction.”
He cautioned, however, that it is still “the early days, and we will see how it works out.”
When asked if he feels WFP could do more for the local communities by donating funds to projects like the Port Hardy multiplex, Bood responded by stating there are “some templates from companies around the North Island who have been doing some very good work for us.”
Bood pointed out Marine Harvest “knows how to do community work” and “there’s a template they use that would make WFP more community friendly and more community involved.”
Marine Harvest donated $250,000 to the Port Hardy multiplex project, and according to Port Hardy Councillor Fred Robertson, is in discussions to donate another $250,000 to the project over the next 10 years.