Economc development can’t come at expense of tourism: Nicolle

Cory Hurley
Published on January 13, 2015
Caribou near Western Brook. — Photo by Parks Canada-Sheldon Stone

The questions on hydraulic fracturing will keep coming from Rocky Harbour’s mayor until he hears the answers he can live with.

Walter Nicolle said the council of the lower Northern Peninsula town is listening closely to the debate over fracking, especially as it pertains to the Gros Morne National Park area. With economic development being essential for the area and environmental concerns paramount in the discussion, the mayor said he has not yet heard enough to draw support in favour or opposed to the controversial oil and gas mining method.

He made the comments as some prominent Canadians call for action to prevent fracking and other resource development near the park. The letter addressed to Premier Paul Davis and Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls for a permanent buffer zone outside Gros Morne’s boundary. It is signed by 30 well-known Canadians including musician Tim Baker, writers Lawrence Hill, Lisa Moore and Joseph Noyden, actor Greg Malone, and astronaut Roberta Bondar.

“I am really still just trying to feel it all out,” Nicolle said.

The mayor said he refuses to believe fracking will ever be permitted inside the park or close to its boundary, but is interested in what comes out of the provincial review of the drilling process. On one hand, he says there cannot be fracking without extensive research or study. On the other, he feels if there is a demand provincially to find additional revenues for its coffers, he believes there could be pressure to drill for oil.

That cannot come at the expense of the tourism product already in place, he claims.

“The park is a great revenue generator for our area, and the entire province,” Nicolle said.

Meanwhile, Graham Oliver, an anti-fracking advocate, commended the group for coming forward to help protect a “jewel” in the tourism industry. Having some recognizable names and faces certainly adds to the cause of the local groups, he said.

There has already been feedback within the industry there could be a decline in tourists if fracking is permitted, says Oliver.

The UNESCO status of Gros Morne extends up the Northern Peninsula to L’Anse Aux Meadows and into Labrador at Red Bay, and he said fracking should be prohibited throughout the entire region and province.

Oliver said he has also seen some public criticism of the so-called “well-known” Canadians who have spoken out. He referred to Bondar as an ideal expert.

“It is quite amazing to have people like this,” he said. “These are people who have looked down at earth from space, seen places like Gros Morne like that.”

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