The former BC Packer lands skirting Quathiaski Cove on Quadra Island will soon belong to the We Wai Kai Nation.
Chief Ralph Dick wouldn’t divulge the selling price, but said the deal with the land owners, Weston Foods, will be complete by the end of May.
“This is something we’ve been working on for nearly 15 years,” the chief told the Mirror. “We’ve done a feasibility study and a development plan…it’s not like we just decided to do this.”
But news of the impending sale was a complete surprise to Jim Abram, Quadra’s representative to the Strathcona Regional District.
“We’ve spent two-and-a-half years on the planning process for these lands,” he said Thursday, as he waited in the Quathiaski Cove ferry line-up.
Abram said a Weston representative even sat in on the planning sessions and indicated the company was not going to sell the land to the First Nations band.
“Sounds like they’ve changed their mind,” Abram added.
According to Chief Dick though, the band has been in ongoing negotiations for the property – a former fish packing site – and turned down a deal many years ago when they could have had the land “for a song.”
“There was site contamination that we weren’t prepared to deal with,” he said. “Since then they spent a lot of money cleaning everything up and they did a good job.”
The Strathcona Regional District was planning to put in sewers through Q-Cove and create a mixed commercial-residential development with plenty of public space and tourist-related amenities.
Chief Dick indicated the band’s plans aren’t that different from the regional district’s vision, but how the development proceeds will be interesting to follow.
There’s still bad blood between the band council and the regional district over the band’s scallop farm, located on the east side of Quadra, just south of Rebecca Spit.
The regional district gave the We Wai Kai a two-year lease to put in a submerged farm as a test site.
The band was able to produce premier scallops and wanted to remain there, but in 2010, the regional district asked the band to relocate the farm due to complaints from some oceanfront property owners.
The band refused to budge, pointing out that test site was excellent and to move would be costly.
Today, the scallop farm remains in operation, but is, according to Abram, in contravention of the island’s official community plan.
And now, with the Q-Cove land purchase, the band has derailed the regional district’s development aspirations.
“They gave us so much trouble over the scallop farm that we just have to do our own thing,” Chief Dick said.
The band is considering two options for the property: Apply to have it turned into reserve land or develop it fee simple with other investors.
If the lands remain private, and are not reserve, then Abram said the band will have to consult with the regional district about its plans and abide by all regulations.
In spite of the ongoing feud between elected representatives, Chief Dick assured islanders they have good plans for the waterfront property.
“It’s not like we’re going to build another fish plant,” he said with a chuckle. “We’re thinking mostly residential with some commercial and make it touristy.”
- The We Wai Kai Nation is also known as the Cape Mudge Indian Band.
- The band has two main residential reserve lands, one on Quadra at Cape Mudge and the other in Campbell River at Quinsam Heights.
- The band has approximately 500 people living on reserve and about 500 living off reserve.
- With the purchase of the Q-Cove land, the band continues diversify its business interests. In Campbell River, the band runs the Quinsam Crossing commercial subdivision, owns the Quinsam Hotel, and is in the process of finalizing a venture with the Pallan Group to expand and create new business opportunities at Middle Point Harbour. On Quadra, the band owns and operates Tsa Kwa Luten Lodge and the We Wai Kai Campground.