Prince Rupert first nations call for negotiations with mill buyer
City looking to recoup $8 million in tax losses with sale
Vancouver SunSeptember 21, 2009
A Prince Rupert first nations group that calls the site of the old Skeena pulp mill the heart of its traditional territory is demanding to negotiate with any potential buyers before the property is sold.
The City of Prince Rupert is offering Watson Island and the mill for sale Sept. 29 to recover unpaid taxes.
The Allied Tsimshian Tribes 0f Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatia wants potential purchasers to deal with them prior to buying the property.
The owners, Sun Wave Forest Products, have not been operating the mill, but have been leasing some of the facilities on Watson Island.
John Helin, Chief Counsellor with the Lax Kw’alaams band, said the site “has been essentially abandoned with many of the old pulp mill buildings either flooded, overgrown with vegetation or infested with various kinds of wildlife.”
He said the unpaid taxes amount to about $8 million.
Helin said during the past four years, the band – which regards Watson Island as “ground zero” and the heart of the its traditional territory – has watched the asset value of the island’s infrastructure disappear.
“Overseas owners have either entirely neglected or stripped key assets needed to carry on any of the former industrial activities of the lands,” he said.
If potential purchasers don’t consult with his group, “we will oppose the purchase with the full force of law to protect the environment and the harmful impact on our aboriginal rights,” he said.
“We could make it pretty miserable for them, but it’s not in our best interests to do that. What we want is economic development there that will benefit the whole region,” he said.
Helin said the property was little more than a dilapidated garbage dump “composed of largely useless assets with an unknown toxic environmental hazard.”
Given the liability new owners would have under the provincial Environmental Management Act, Helin said it is no surprise “that purchasers with a real intent to build viable economic opportunities have been absent from the advertised sale of the property, so far.”
He said the first nations group and the taxpayers of Prince Rupert are wondering what unpleasant surprises are in store for them from future potential long-distance owners.
I tend to post things I see in other newspapers about Prince Rupert. Mostly just for information sakes. Not sure if it just interests me, or am I wasting mainframers time?,lol