‘People want access to the harbour’

Tara Bradbury
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Take Back the Harbour protest set for Monday afternoon

The proposed fence for the St. John’s harbourfront.
— Image courtesy of the St. John’s Port Authority

The water is what attracts people to this province, and it’s what’s in the veins of Newfoundlanders, says Mark Wilson of St. John’s. Removing access to the water, he says, is a step in the wrong direction.

Wilson, a musician, organic farmer and past

St. John’s mayoral candidate, has organized a Take Back the Harbour march for Monday afternoon in protest of the proposed fence for the St. John’s waterfront.

“I think what’s absolutely critical is that people are able to show the powers that be, the port authority and the City of St. John’s, what the public wants, really,” Wilson says. “I think people want access to the harbour, and I think that’s clear from what we’re getting in the media, but without physically showing up at the port authority building and at a council meeting, what kind of democracy do people expect to receive?”

Setting security

St. John’s Port Authority CEO Sean Hanrahan has said the authority must either abide by security standards or shut down the port of St. John’s, meaning a loss of a quarter of a billion dollars and close to 3,000 jobs.

“Since Sept. 11, 2001, there’s been a more restricted security regime in place, one we have always tried to maintain, but at the same time afford as much public access to the harbour as we can. That’s not always possible, and we’ve gone as far as we can with that,” he said Thursday.

City representatives have given their unanimous support for the project, which will cost a total of about $900,000. The fence will be erected on the waterfront from the parking garage to the Royal Trust building. The open-access area will be from The Keg restaurant to the edge of Atlantic Place.

Blocking access

“It seems like access to the water is being removed more and more and more,” Wilson says. “What’s the point of that? What kinds of security threats are here? Is it a security threat or is it a don’t-bother-our-business threat?”

Wilson says there’s likely a compromise that can be reached, which might include removable fencing.

“We get into these situations where the city has made a decision and they don’t want to talk about it anymore, and the harbour authority has made a decision and they don’t want to talk about it anymore. From the very beginning, if we have the dialogue, then we can move forward in a way that the majority is going to be happy with, but we don’t have that.”

The march will begin at the St. John’s Port Authority Building, 1 Water St., at 3:30 p.m. Participants will then walk along the harbour to City Hall for a protest, before attending the city council meeting at 4:30 p.m.


Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: Port Authority Building

Geographic location: Atlantic Place

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Recent comments

  • Jennifer
    December 09, 2012 - 15:43

    Has anyone been to Halifax lately? They have done an outstanding job of keeping the harbour safe, while still accessible to the local people and the tourists. Perhaps the St. John's port authority should be talking to them to get some feedback. Maybe they should visit in 2016 when the Tall Ships return and see how well it works when there are thousands of people strolling up and down the harbour front minus a fence.

  • Hunter
    December 09, 2012 - 13:32

    Those who give up liberty for security deserve neither. As with all issues, I'm sure there is a middle ground solution to this problem that will appease all parties involved. However, when people let emotions triumph over logic such a solution becomes impossible.

  • Maggy Carter
    December 09, 2012 - 10:35

    With all due respects to Mr. Hanrahan, he will need to offer more proof that the planned fencing of the waterfront is the only thing that will satisfy federal security guidelines for national harbours. The main impetus for these extreme measures is probably not national security but rather a move to appease the oil service industry. The Authority is worried that it might lose some of the expected growth in offshore servicing if it doesn't bow to the industry's every whim. The reality is that we are approaching the point where this relatively small port cannot be all things to every industry - offshore oil, fisheries, ship repair, general shipping and marine services, cargo handling and storage, and of course tourism. What the Port Authority sees as being in its own best interests - maximizing income - is not necessarily what is in the best interests of the city or the province. For example, the value of the harbour to general tourism is almost incalculable. No doubt it far exceeds any direct revenues to the Port Authority from the cruise ship and tour boat operations. It would be foolhardy therefore for the City of St. John's to leave all of the strategic decisions relating to the development and operation of the port to an agency that has no direct accountability to taxpayers - or indeed, as some might argue, no accountability to anyone other than a handful of political appointees. Councillor O'Leary is therefore entirely reasonable in her assertion that the City needs a much more direct role in the management of the port. Even that is not enough - as evidenced by the (once again) extraordinarily naive, short-sighted and backward approach taken on this issue by Mayor O'Keefe. Perhaps what is needed is a volunteer committee comprised of ordinary citizens and small business groups that advises the Board of Directors of the Port on general policy and direction. The Authority also needs to operate with far more transparency - including proactive disclosure of discussions regarding the competing demands on the port's finite resources. (This might have averted, for example, the private cosy arrangement which saw a valuable piece of waterfront passed over to restaurant investors without public tender.) What the port does not need is another ugly fence that tells the world that this is just another industrial park for industries that float.

  • Joe
    December 09, 2012 - 10:18

    It is often said that locks are only there to stop honest people, the same could be said of this fence. People often say we live in a different and more dangerous world now because of 9/11 and terrorism. The truth is we have lived in far more dangerous times during World War one and two. Back then we had anti-submarine nets in the harbour and German spies in the city. We even had submarines that sank boats not far from the city. But even then at this very dangerous time we didn’t stop the public access to the harbour. Because back then we understood the difference between real security the false sense of it that an eight foot tall fence would provide. How will a fence prevent someone from using a fishing boat on the south side that has no fence and going across the harbour at night? Also at night an eight foot tall fence can be climbed if you’re prepaid without much effort. The fence will do far more to block honest people from gaining access to the harbour then it will do to prevent any true threat to the harbour. This is a typical government reaction of dealing with a treat in a way that gives the public appearance of addressing a problem without really looking at the threat and implementing a meaningful solution. Security Theater is defined as the practice of investing in countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to actually achieve it. Hopefully act two of the Security Theater will be better because act one was unimpressive.

  • concerned citizen
    December 09, 2012 - 09:58

    I was down there last night and while parking my car near the waterfront all you could smell was sewage! The least of your worries is a fence , the smell is horrible down there . Go protest Muskrat Falls instead because that truly deserves more attention .

  • mike
    December 09, 2012 - 09:28

    When was the last time we where aloud in the Oceanx property to walk around? That right never.That is where the 250 million dollars and 3000 thousand jobs come from.They are only putting up the wall so the cruise ship passangers will have something nice to look when they get off the ship instead of a cold medal fence that does a very good job.Thank u city councel.Can't wait 4 Sept.

  • Jason Bragg
    December 09, 2012 - 08:28

    $900,000 for a fence? I work in the construction industry and I know how quick that can turn into a million. Then they still need to pay for security to man the gates. Why don't they just save everyone a lot of money and just pay that security that they'er going to have to employ anyway to patrol the harbour front? Problem solved.

  • who said?
    December 09, 2012 - 08:25

    I don't get it. If St John's has to have a security fence around its harbour for security reasons becuase of 9/11, why does the same rule not apply to Halifax Harbour? Or Charlottetown? Or Toronto? Residents there have full access to their harbour and the harbours have been developed such that they are a major draw to residents and visitors alike. These cities have cruise ship trafffic, sailboat traffic and industrial/fishing boats in their harbour as well. There is something "fishy" here if you know what I mean. I hope the whole city turns out for this march and fight to see where these rules are written. Sounds to me like someone is stretching something more than a bit! Find out the real facts, St John's residents, and make your voices heard.

  • Pierre Neary
    December 09, 2012 - 07:45

    Shut down the Port of St. John’s? I understand the need for security but Mr. Hanrahan needs to get real. His fear mongering is laughable at best. Public access to the harbour front must be maintained.

  • Ronald Wade
    December 09, 2012 - 01:17

    If we fence off the harbour we are letting terroism control our fredom.The freedom our fathers and grandfathers gave their lives for during both world wars.

  • Susie
    December 08, 2012 - 22:23

    I agree with Percy, which is better, for the people of St. John's, lose a quarter of a billion $ and close to 3000 jobs or a view (which by the way you will still be able to see) they are not putting up a 20 foot fence around the harbour...only a fence that will abide by safey bylaws. Shutter to think if the same people who are complaining if they or someone related to them lost their jobs and their means to support themselves and their families would be so quick to judge others and what they are doing to keep people safe.

  • jack
    December 08, 2012 - 19:35

    .boo hoo ...when we were kids we used to hold hands down by the bubble and sing coom by yaaa....ohh boo hoo

  • Corner B'y Tom
    December 08, 2012 - 16:56

    Poor PErcy still believes George Bush is still president of the USA and that the daily "Threat" level is Red and he swore last night he saw a Jihadist on a camel wielding a machine gun in his back garden. Remember Percy that the elites on those fancy cruise boats will be asking "Why are you behind the bars and not in front of it".

  • darren neary
    December 08, 2012 - 15:31

    i thinkg the harbour authority is fully within its rights to bar off the water front, security and safety first, we are an open port. we also live in aprovince with 30,000 kms of coastline, go somewhere else and enjoy the view, the people of this province are our worst enemies, they are not building a concrete barrier on the waterfront.

  • Juhan Leemet
    December 08, 2012 - 15:20

    Using scare tactics to take away rights and freedoms seems to be popular these days? Why don't they suggest people just hang a picture of the harbour on their wall at home: problem solved?

  • Blair
    December 08, 2012 - 15:08

    I am not particularly interested in the waterfront but I have a keen interest in airplanes, I have spent hours upon hours at the airport trying to get any view at all of planes coming and going but it is very difficult. Suprisingly enough it is amazing how many others do this. I hardly expect the the Airport Authority to open access to the ramps so a person can have a walk around and enjoy the place. The Port Authority are governed by the exact same regulations regarding security and it is sad that the St. John's Rubber Boot/Granola Society have that much greed when they are willing to compromise safety , security and jobs, the livelyhood of people, in order that they can have a good view, something that is all ready abudently available. I think it's selfish, self serving and just plain astonishing.

  • Bob
    December 08, 2012 - 14:04

    Better off not getting too close to that polluted, stinky water anyways in my opinion...

  • seanoairborne
    December 08, 2012 - 14:02

    "Mark Wilson,musician,organic farmer and past mayoral candidate"That says it all!!Has he found those snail darters and spotted owls yet at the waterfront?I bet he wears "earth shoes" and has a mane that would make any woman envious??

  • Rockhead
    December 08, 2012 - 10:38

    In this crazy world of today,I can very well understand the need for security,and if it needs a fence to have it,then so be it,BUT,what's wrong with putting a Gate every 100 ft.to allow axcess to the apron when there are no cruise Ships.When a Ship is expected,send a person down and close and lock the Gates.Sounds simple enough to Me.

  • Percy
    December 08, 2012 - 09:15

    I say, get a life guys!If you cannot walk on the sidewalk on Harbour Drive, and enjoy the Harbour the same as you would if you were inside the fence, then I say, you have a big problem. Go and sit down on one of the benches at Harbour Side Park, and enjoy the scenery. The Federal Government has to have security in force at the Harbour front, more especially since 9/11... If something happened without all of this security, and the new fence that will be built, these same complainers would be the first to complain, and say, why wasn't there more security in place? You just CANNOT please some people, no matter what you do. Do you want the Port Of St.John's closed, with a loss of thousands of jobs, and revenue, as the Port Authority CEO has stated? I rest my case! I say to those that are squawking about the fact that they won't be able to be so close to the water, face reality, and NOT live in a FANTASY world. Is that the ONLY reason people go downtown, if so, then I am missing something. The small minority that are complaining about this, are probably the same people who are forever complaining about losing a view when development is planned for the downtown area. Now, are there any roses still in bloom? If so, go and smell them, and enjoy your day!

    • Frank
      December 09, 2012 - 08:15

      And I say, if you can't get 5 words into writing your lengthy comment without already being insulting, as you have, no one is going to care what you say, unless they already agree with you.