Loggers on the Northern Peninsula are talking war, and threatening to blockade the highway over the Roddickton pellet plant, which is currently sitting idle.
In spring 2008, with much fanfare, then-natural resources minister Kathy Dunderdale announ-ced millions of dollars in government support for the Roddickton mill.
After briefly producing wood pellets for Newfoundland, the mill has been inactive.
“We’ve been living in hope for quite some time, right from the start, that this was going to be the answer for the forestry industry up here,” said Ralph Payne, acting president of the Northern Peninsula Loggers’Association.
“We’re right on the brink of a war here in Newfoundland, and the government is causing it, but they wants the people to start it.”
In a recent news release, the Liberals called the situation a “boondoggle” and forestry critic Eddie Joyce said he’s convinced the government didn’t do its due diligence before it put more than $10 million into the company that owns the mill.
“There were supposed to be 300 direct and indirect jobs done by this pellet plant,” Joyce said.“Now they’re saying they need a $4 million wharf and a $1 million building to supply their material.”
The Telegram could not contact anybody with Holson Forest Products, which owns the mill, to comment for this story.
Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy is not in the country and therefore unable to do an interview with The Telegram.
However, the issue came up in the House of Assembly this spring, and at the time, Kennedy essentially said the government has done as much as it can.
“We wanted to sustain the forest industry in the Northern Peninsula and we went a long ways towards that,” Kennedy said.
"As a government, there is only so far you can go; our role is to help people get their businesses going. They then have to find the markets and determine where those markets are. It is my understanding from the Holson situation that there are issues with markets in terms of finding and getting their product to market. We have done what we can; it is now time for that business to stand on its own two feet.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources said that officials have met with loggers this spring as well as representatives from Holson.
But Payne said loggers want a meeting with Kennedy.
“We have called the Northern Peninsula up here the forgotten peninsula, because we have not been recognized by the provincial government here today,” Payne said.
“I don’t think that the government needs to come out with a pocketful of money or anything like that.
“They need to come to the table.”
If that doesn’t happen, Payne said more and more loggers will just leave the province to go to other places where there’s more work.
He’s also talking about doing something drastic to get the government’s attention.
“Every piece of forestry equipment we’ve got up here, we shut the highway completely down,” he said. “Take all the equipment that we’ve got — harvesters, dozers, graders, you name it — and block the highway with it completely, because we’ve had enough of their crap.
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