Forest fund clarified

  • Dec. 8, 2008 12:00 p.m.

Gwaii Trust Society chair Ken Rea took the opportunity of the society’s annual general meeting Saturday to clarify several things about the Gwaii Forest Fund. The $25-million fund, formerly known as the South Moresby Forest Replacement Account, was handed over to the islands last year by the federal and provincial governments. A group called the Gwaii Forest Charitable Trust was established to manage this trust fund in a manner similar to the very successful Gwaii Trust Society. The trustees of the Gwaii Forest Charitable Trust, or GFCT, are Rose Russ, Warren Foster, plus the entire board of the Gwaii Trust Society. The trustees chose as their agent the Gwaii Forest Society – made up of directors from all islands communities – to distribute fund revenue by soliciting, reviewing and choosing proposals. The Gwaii Forest Society “does not make investment decisions with the funds capital, nor are they asked for advice in the governance of the GFCT,” Mr. Rea said. “Their expertise is in the recommendation for distribution of excess proceeds grants to them as their sole income from the GFCT’s investments.” Mr. Rea said he wanted to make it clear that the Gwaii Forest Society administrator and board are not responsible for any losses or gains with the GFCT investments. (The trust fund has dropped in market value due to ongoing stock market turbulence.) He said he also wanted to make clear that the GFCT trustees are all personally liable for the management of the trust’s assets. “This is something that we all take very seriously,” he said, adding “This is one of the main reasons why we believe that prudence needs to be the mainstay in whatever decisions we elect to make.” Mr. Rea went on to explain that accounting firm KPMG works with the GFCT to make sure the trust’s deed is closely followed. “While KPMG monitors all GFCT activities it does not, as reported, have the ability to take the fund away from the islands communities,” he said. “What it can do is appoint new trustees, and only if it believes those trustees currently managing the GFCT have intentionally acted in contravention to the overall spirit and intention of the deed.” The last point Mr. Rea made was on the subject of Gwaii Trust support to both the GFCT and the Gwaii Forest Society, which has been substantial. The Gwaii Trust has directly contributed well over a million dollars, he said, to make sure project commitments have been met, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars of “in kind” funds towards the operation, creation and management of both entities. “At this point in time we are proposing to park the GFCT until markets recover, but remain committed to administrating the fund’s investment portfolio, entertaining any and all well-thought-out, prudent, community-driven alternatives, with a transparency that will strive to keep all communities informed of our progress.”

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