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Nanaimo residents stage public meeting over harbour proposal

Residents concerned about a proposed marina development at Nanaimo harbour can share their concerns at a public, town-hall style meeting being held Monday night.

The proposal was announced in May, after the Nanaimo Port Authority announced it had reached a 30-year deal with Pacific Northwest Marina Group (PNMG) to lease the boat basin at Nanaimo Harbour.

The Sidney-based company wants to invest $9-million to upgrade the existing 4.45-hectare marina, money that would replace creosote pilings with steel piles, and wood floats with concrete finger slips that would increase moorage capacity by 40 per cent, and a maximum slip size of 80 feet. The company has said approximately 90 per cent of moorage will be allocated to vessels 60 feet and under.

The plan has received criticism from different user groups in the Nanaimo area, including commercial fishers and Protection Island residents who are concerned about the impact privatization will have on the harbour.

Those concerns include exorbitant increased moorage rates, changes to the unloading facility, and assurance that there will be continued mooring access for Protection Islanders. Residents are also concerned that the Nanaimo Port Authority, which has federal jurisdiction over the harbour, did not put the lease of the marina to public tender before an agreement was signed.

While PNWG's plan does not specifically prohibit public users from the harbour, Michelle Corfield, who is organizing Monday's meeting, says the proposed plan as is will make it more desirable for current users to continue to access the harbour.

"This is an issue that every single Nanaimoite needs to know about," she said. "If they don't make a plan or develop a strategy to address these issues, everybody suffers, there are no winners."

The proposal has also drawn criticism from Snuneymuxw, which claims both parties failed to provide adequate public notice; failed to disclosed terms of the lease; failed to recognize SFN's legal rights to the harbour; and failed to follow through on a joint review on the proposal despite a commitment to SFN.

In a response to public concerns, PNMG has stated on its website that no areas of the marina will be closed to the public, and that there will be an increased number of small vessel slips available for Protection Island residents and other annual moorage customers. Previously accounting for 17 per cent of the slips in the marina design, the number has been revised to represent 31 per cent.

Details of the lease have yet to be finalized and released.

Monday's meeting will include an hour of presentations by Snuneymuxw chief Douglas White III, commercial fishermen, citizens, followed by discussion.

"We're hoping to find out all the issues from all the stakeholder groups, identify issues and concerns, and then strategize as to what our next steps can be," said Corfield, a commercial fisherwoman. "The lack of public tendering, the lack of consultation, all are playing fundamental roles in this."

The Save Nanaimo's Harbour meeting will take place Jan. 7 from 7-9 p.m. at the Coast Bastion Inn. For more information on the meeting, please contact Michelle Corfield at 250-741-7540 or e-mail michellecorfield@shaw.ca

For more information on the PNMG marina development project, please visit http://www.pacificnorthwestmarinagroup.ca/

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