Big turnout at Oona River regional district meeting

  • Apr. 24, 2013 6:00 p.m.

A record 12 members of the public attended the Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District’s monthly meeting on April 20 in Oona River, says administrator Joan Merrick. It was the first time the regional district had ever met in Oona River, which is located on Porcher Island about 24 km south of Prince Rupert. The high turnout was all the more surprising given that Oona River has an official population of just 37 people. The 10 regional district directors travelled to Oona River by boat and spent the day in a priority-setting workshop, Ms Merrick said, before holding the public meeting in the evening. The weather was warm and sunny and the community was extremely welcoming, she said. Only two board members had ever been to Oona River before. Board members decided at the workshop that one of their priorities for the coming year will be emergency planning, Ms Merrick said. They also heard a presentation from Maurie Hurst, Emergency Management BC regional manager, based in Terrace. Ms Hurst spoke about emergency programming in general, and addressed some complaints about delays in notification from Emergency Management BC for events like tsunami warnings and advisories. The notification system is not meant for “near-field events”, Ms Merrick said, and Ms Hurst stressed that anyone who feels strong shaking should move to higher ground immediately, without waiting for direction from Emergency Management BC. North coast residents need to make sure they are personally prepared for emergencies and disasters, Ms Merrick added. The regional district does not have any rescue capacity, and people should have enough supplies to make sure they can survive on their own for 72 hours. The agenda also included information from the City of Prince Rupert about its proposal to vastly expand its boundaries, as well as two letters from Dodge Cove residents voicing concerns about the expansion. Directors did not come to any conclusions about the proposal, but have asked staff to collect more information. Ms Merrick said she will be having a meeting with city staff this week to find out more. Directors voted to give first reading to a zoning change for a property on Sangan Drive off Tow Hill Road. A public hearing on this change will be held in Masset on June 22, Ms Merrick said, and will be chaired by Area D director Mike Racz. Directors also discussed the idea of providing themselves with an allowance of $300 to $400 a year for using their own electronic equipment to view regional district agendas and information, Ms Merrick said. Several directors already use their own laptops or other devices to view the agenda, but others don’t have this kind of equipment. As well, there are probably directors who would like to continue using paper agendas. Directors voted to have staff prepare a draft policy on the issue. Ms Merrick said this will likely be presented at the May meeting. The regional district also received a letter from Don Fast, deputy minister at the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, turning down its request for an incorporation study for Sandspit. Sandspit is not a candidate for incorporation, Mr. Fast wrote, because of its declining population and small tax base. He urged the regional district to explore other possibilities for governance such as a local community commission.