Nfld. & Labrador

Roddickton mayor 'shocked' after biofuel company names Hawke's Bay as primary location

A vacant pellet plant in Sheila Fitzgerald's community will not be part of a multimillion-dollar plan on the Northern Peninsula.

Vacant pellet plant will not be part of Timberlands plan, mayor says

Roddickton Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald says the town is devastated to learn their shuttered pellet plant won't be reopening. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

Sheila Fitzgerald is afraid her community will die if a new biofuel project by a U.K.-based company doesn't bring jobs to the region.

The mayor of Roddickton says the company is building its plant in Hawke's Bay, leaving an idled pellet plant and sawmill in Roddickton empty.

Fitzgerald said the townspeople always assumed the company would use the plant, which was built in 2011 but never opened.

"People are devastated. We're shocked," she said. "There's this feeling of betrayal. We were kind of believing all along that this was going to happen here."

'Waiting to go back to work'

The plant was built by Holson Forest Products, with at at least $11 million of funding from the provincial government. The facility never opened.

Timberlands, the local subsidiary of Active Energy Group, had previously said it was considering the Holson plant as its home on the Northern Peninsula.

Roddickton, on the opposite side of the Northern Peninsula from Hawke's Bay, is off the beaten path to St. Anthony, the mayor said. (Google Maps)

The company announced this week that it had struck a deal with the provincial government for 100,000 cubic metres of timber on the Northern Peninsula and would begin setting up its operations.

Without that, it's just as well to cut the road off at Plum Point.- Sheila Fitzgerald

"We were hoping they were coming in and reopening the doors," Fitzgerald said. "The people here were just waiting to go back to work because this has been the livelihood, this has been the history of this town."

Conditions in deal to protect locals

Forestry Minister Gerry Byrne said the previous Holson dealings left the town with a bitter taste, but government didn't want to force the company to do anything that could scare away business.

"This is a decision that's been made by the company itself," he said. "What we told the company is we will not interfere with your business decisions."

Gerry Byrne says the provincial government didn't want to interfere with the business decisions of a new company, after years of economic depression on the Northern Peninsula. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Byrne said the government did put conditions on the company, built into its timber agreements, that would benefit the existing sawmillers on the Northern Peninsula.

Timberlands will be required to offer up 25 per cent of its total cubic metres to local sawmillers, which means more saw logs for the local mills.

Fitzgerald is concerned none of the conditions in the deal will translate to jobs on the east side of the Northern Peninsula, off the beaten path to St. Anthony.

Existing sawmills on the Northern Peninsula stand to benefit by the Timberlands deal, says Byrne, because they get first pick of the logs cut by the company. (CBC)

She understands government doesn't have more money to put into the dormant plant to kickstart production, but she hoped to see a stronger effort to include Roddickton.

"Our main industry is forestry and without that, it's just as well to cut the road off at Plum Point," she said. 

"Eventually these communities on the northeast side, these four little communities, will eventually die because we have been dependent on this resource."

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