Carly Pereboom of Port Hardy and District Chamber of Commerce

Carly Pereboom of Port Hardy and District Chamber of Commerce

Regional District plans for future

Tourism to play an increasing role in the local economy Strategic Sector Planning workshop hears.

SEVEN HILLS—Forestry remains the dominant industry on North Vancouver Island, but tourism will continue to play an increasing role in the local economy in coming years.

That was part of the message shared as the Regional District of Mount Waddington took the first steps toward and update of its decade-old economic plan by hosting a Strategic Sector Planning workshop at Seven Hills Golf and Country Club last Thursday.

The workshop featured a presentation by William Trousdell and Colleen Hamilton of EcoPlan International, a Vancouver-based consulting firm. They addressed local civic officials, business owners and First Nations economic planners who attended to contribute their suggestions and recommendations to the proposed economic plan.

“We need to rely on your knowledge to move this strategy forward,” said Trousdell. “We want you to think about what this region is going to look like in 20 years, and we’ll walk back from there to determine the steps necessary to achieve that future.”

A steering committee made up of local volunteers identified five key economic sectors on the North Island — Forestry, cultural and adventure tourism, marine, small business, and education and training.

Each was represented by a large wall poster, and workshop participants were urged to write their respective visions for those sectors, along with emerging opportunities, barriers and ways governments can advance each of them.

Trousdell and Hamilton presented dates highlighting some of the trends and challenges facing the North Island, including a dramatic population decline over the last 20 years.

Forestry has seen a decline in that time, though it remains the No. 1 employer in the region, followed by the public sector. On the other hand, gains have been made with the recent completion of two renewable energy projects — the Cape Scott Wind Farm and the Kokish Run-of-River Hydro project — and aquaculture and tourism are on the rise.

Craig Murray of Nimmo Bay Resort approved the inclusion of tourism as one of the five selected economic sectors, noting the summary of the 2003-04 regional economic plan did not even include the word tourism.

Trousdell and Hamilton will take the input gathered from last week’s workshop and create a workshop report to present RDMW’s director of economic development, Pat English, and planning director Jonah Velaniskis.

“We’ll do more research on each sector and then provide (RDMW) with a list of recommendations,” said Hamilton. “That can help them make a draft plan to take to the public, and it’s always easier for people to comment when they have something to start from.”

The work of EcoPlan Int’l is funded through the RDMW, Vancouver Island North Tourism and Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET).