Snuneymuxw buys ferry for Newcastle Island access

NANAIMO – First Nation to provide Newcastle Island ferry service as part of long-term economic and cultural development plan for island.

Snuneymuxw First Nation has purchased the M.V. Grey Selkie and will begin delivering ferry service to Newcastle Island April 1.

Snuneymuxw First Nation has purchased the M.V. Grey Selkie and will begin delivering ferry service to Newcastle Island April 1.

It’s about to become much less expensive to get to Newcastle Island.

Snuneymuxw First Nation announced Wednesday it purchased the M.V. Grey Selkie water taxi from Victoria Harbour Ferry Company. The craft has operated for several years between Maffeo Sutton Park and Sayshutsun, the Snuneymuxw traditional name for Newcastle Island.

“We’re going to service the upcoming season [from] April 1 all the way to September,” said Erralyn Thomas, president of NCI Ferry Service Ltd.

The per-person fare to Newcastle Island will drop from $9, the rate charged in 2016, to $5 to make the island more accessible.

“It cost almost $50 per family to get over so that’s a significant barrier that we tailored our business plan and economic model to address,” she said.

The company is also upgrading its electronic point-of-sale system to improve payment options for park services.

The Grey Selkie purchase represents a step forward in the Snuneymuxw dream to develop Sayshutsun’s potential to provide employment for the First Nation and revive the island as a cradle of Snuneymuxw culture.

“Newcastle Island is now managed by our economic development company, owned by SFN,” Thomas said. “Prior, it was managed through our lands and resources department. We’re taking it out of the Indian Act model and putting it into the economic development model, basically. We’re planning a lot over there.”

The Grey Selkie will need a captain and deck hand, plus four or five park facility operators and security personnel.

“That’s the part where we’re strengthening our Snuneymuxw economy,” Thomas said. “Job creation and we increase the per capita household income and we start to see a down tick in the unemployment rate and an uptick in employment in the long term.”

Weddings eight are planned this year so far school excursions, corporate conferences, meetings, wine and cheese events and multicultural tours showcasing Snuneymuxw and Canadian history on Sayshutsun are in the current scope of planning. Camping facilities will likely be expanded slightly to handle peak season overflow.

“The first six, eight months are going to be a startup and testing a lot of things and trying new things out,” Thomas said.

For the moment Sayshutsun will be a seasonal employer, but could provide work year round, Thomas said.

Nanaimo News Bulletin

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