Tension in Pender Harbour over proposed plan for dock management

Frustrated Pender Harbour residents and dock owners filled a public meeting on Saturday, firing questions at the provincial government about a proposed plan residents say they were never consulted about.

The Pender Harbour Dock Management Plan was developed by the provincial government and Sechelt Nation. The plan outlines proposed requirements for dock design and construction and dock maintenance, in additional to breaking up the harbour into zones where there are additional requirements or restrictions.

The draft was first introduced in April 2015. The collaborative process between the Sechelt Nation and the province is part of the government’s attempt to “develop a new relationship” with the band to “address the cumulative impacts of docks and dock construction in Pender Harbour due to its environmental and cultural significance.”

However, Pender Harbour residents say they were never consulted about the plan, which directly impacts their docks and properties.

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“The biggest problem that has come about with this process is the lack of process,” said Bill Charlton, one of the many residents who stood up to speak at the meeting.

Charlton also presented government representatives with a letter from Pender Harbour dock owners, which includes demands and changes they’d like to see to the proposed plan.

He urged the government to seriously consider their list.

“You are not going to get agreement and you’re going to have problems getting this plan through–I can guarantee you,” he said. “You need to start consulting with the people that are sitting in this room–honestly and openly and transparently.”

In a ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ handout distributed at the meeting, the government says no “authorized docks” will have to be re-constructed, however “maintenance activities must be consistent with the DMP.”

The document goes on to explain that existing tenured docks will remain. However, upon renewal “dock tenure holders will be required to comply with the DMP for replacement applications. Tenure holders will be required to complete a Preliminary Field Reconnaissance, if none has been completed in the past, and to submit a Management Plan describing how ongoing maintenance activities will be consistent with the Best Management Practicies set out in the DMP supported by the opinion of a qualified professional.”

The length and cost of the dock tenures will also be changed, to a length and amount that couldn’t definitively be confirmed at the meeting.

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Nicholas Simons, NDP MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast, says he wasn’t consulted prior to the draft being released.

“The government would have done well to understand that there are elected officials in this area who understand some of the issues perhaps more than the folks at headquarters,” he said.

“I’m troubled by the fact that the province’s approach has really created discord.”

Discussion throughout the event was heated, and at one point, according to Simons, escalated to the point where a Sechelt elder was booed.

Government representatives at the meeting said all written feedback received from residents will be considered as the plan is taken back to the drawing board.

The deadline for feedback has been extended once again–this time, until June 24.

READ: The letter from Pender Harbour dock owners

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