Mayor calls on government to help get pellet plant running

Diane Crocker
Published on April 28, 2014

Sheila Fitzgerald is worried about the future of her community.

And instead of sitting back and just watching, the mayor of Roddickton-Bide Arm on the northeast side of the Northern Peninsula, is reaching out for help.

Fitzgerald has written Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley asking that the province invest in the forest industry in her region, specifically in a pellet plant operation located in Roddickton.

Fitzgerald told The Western Star Saturday that the letter was prompted by recent news that the province is investing in building a pellet plant and improving infrastructure in the central region.

“Here we are up here, we have a pellet plant, the pellet plant works, it’s ready to go and still for all they’re talking about investing government dollars into central.

“And not that that shouldn’t happen,” said Fitzgerald. “Sure it should happen. Every place in this province needs to have industry and a diverse economy.”

Fitzgerald said the Holson Forest Products Limited pellet plant is not in operation due to shipping issues.

It’s her understanding that the company is looking at shipping out of St. Anthony. “But that’s very expensive. That’s certainly not a long-term solution,” said Fitzgerald.

“What we’re asking for, in terms of our town, is that why not invest in putting a wharf here,” she said.

“You’ve helped out central, you’ve helped out western, why not here on the Northern Peninsula, why can’t you help us out, too?

“We just need the wharf.”

Fitzgerald said her town, like many others, needs help to diversify.

“You can’t put all your eggs in one basket,” she said and added if the fishery or forestry falls apart, then towns on the Northern Peninsula are left with nothing.

“Up here right now we’re really, really struggling,” she said.

“This is a logging town. On the northeast side of the Northern Peninsula this is what we do.

“We’re rural Newfoundland. There’s no gold. There’s no oil. There’s no major other industries that we can tap into. So, when our logging got hit, we got hit hard.”

Because of that, Fitzgerald has seen the population of her town decline as families move away.

She said the people that are leaving are part of the volunteer fire department, search and rescue and resident  who volunteer at the local arena.

“I worry about our essential services if our population continues to decline. Next thing they’re going to say is you don’t neet a clinic up there,” she said.

“I’m really worried of what the impact is going to be if we’ve got to see another year or two years of the pellet plant not working.

“If this pellet plant works it’s going to affect jobs and families from Deer Lake and north,” she said.

“This council is saying our town needs this and we need it now.”