Moorage tie-up causing 'stress, concern, anger'

John Gleeson/Staff Writer / Staff writer
November 16, 2012 01:00 AM

The forced transfer of moorage licences in Pender Harbour is causing "stress and concern" among residents, Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) director Frank Mauro told Coast Reporter.

"People express it, and there's some anger," Mauro said.

The province set Thursday, Nov. 15, as the deadline for private moorage holders in Pender Harbour to sign new five-year agreements. The previous, indefinite tenures were revoked on Sept. 15, "in order to facilitate discussions with the Sechelt Nation on a number of issues," wrote Keith Anderson, manager of Crown land authorizations for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, in a Sept. 13 letter to private moorage holders.

A total of 44 tenures were affected by the new policy, and one week prior to the deadline, 32 had been issued replacement licences, said Ministry spokesman Brennan Clarke.

Those who miss the deadline "would be considered in trespass under sections 59 and 60 of the Land Act and may be subject to action as authorized by the Act," Clarke wrote in an emailed response. "However, if they sign the documents, then we will simply continue to move forward."

As well, the province said it is developing a Pender Harbour dock management plan with the Sechelt Indian Band (SIB) and "has decided that it will not accept any new applications in this area while discussions are ongoing," said a Ministry handout provided to the SCRD to answer residents' concerns.

Mauro said he is aware of six or seven residents who prepared new applications and are now waiting indefinitely, after having spent several thousand dollars each on the process.

In general, residents are "having trouble understanding what's happening," Mauro said.

"There's real uncertainty. It's a real issue. They don't know where they're going to end up and it puts a kind of damper on what people can do to their foreshore. It stifles economic activity."

Mauro said local government officials had "a good meeting" with Premier Christy Clark at September's Union of British Columbia Municipalities convention, and received a commitment that the matter would be settled.

"I agree that it has to be resolved - it's been going on since 2003. That's too long to have an entire community in this kind of situation," Mauro said. "I encourage both parties to get together to resolve the situation."

Clarke confirmed that nine new applications from the area were on hold.

"Future decisions," he wrote, "will depend on the progress of discussions with the Sechelt First Nation."

In an interview in July, Chief Garry Feschuk told Coast Reporter that the moorage authorization issues were a result of the provincial government's "failure to follow through on their own statements and proposals in our reconciliation discussions."

Feschuk said SIB had agreed to a proposal that would have provided certainty for existing private moorage holders, but the province walked away from the deal.

"The reality is that our title and rights interests at Pender Harbour have been significantly infringed, and those infringements and their impacts have never been addressed or remedied. All authorizations for existing private moorages are defective until this occurs," he said.

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