The Ministry of Forestry, Lands and natural resource operations is meeting the challenges of recovery, transformation and renewal according to deputy minister and CEO, Doug Konkin
Konkin was one of the guest speakers at the Council of Forest Industry conference held in Prince George last week
Merging several departments to create the ministry meant re-aligning about 4,000 people.
“We are reaching the point where we can turn our minds to what the ministry was created to do,” he said. “After some pretty tough years the forest sector seems to be on a more positive road.”
He said it was doing well despite the largest market being in trouble, thanks to new trade agreements with China. However, he said these new markets need to be pursued and broadened to include countries like Japan, South Korea and India
“We cannot sit still,” he said, adding there are many competitors out there and a storm of financial uncertainty. “We can’t afford to be priced out or driven out because of non-tarrif barriers.”
He said the quest of the ministry is to simplify and streamline government and said the agency inherited a backlog of permit paperwork for things like wharves, which they want to quickly work through, streamlining processes and becoming more efficient in the meantime.
Konkin added another goal is to pay more attention to client services. In tackling this, they are looking at minor and major projects. For example, with the Mount Milligan mining project they put together a government team, and reduced the need for a multitude of letters and staff, dropping waiting times from 300 plus days to 120.
The Mount Milligan mine will begin production in 2013 and provide 400 permanent jobs.When it comes to wharves, he said, they are moving to an online pilot project which will automatically point out where wharves should be placed. If someone then comes in with a request and it matches the approved area, it is just a matter of paying the fee and moving forward, instead of waiting for someone to come out and inspect the area first.
Freeing up government resources from complex to simple is important, he said.”I think there are many possible synergies.
“A cultural shift in safety standards is a positive move forward as well, he said. Better methods of training and equipment reduced fatalities from 35 in 2005 to five last year.When it comes to the Pine Beetle infestation, he said though the impact has been significant it was not as bad as predicted. More dead pine was utilized and more areas were reforested than expected.
“Fortunately there is a market for wood biomass,” he said.
But although the ministry intends to simplify and streamline procedures, they do not intend to lower environmental standards
“We are committed to high environmental standards,” he said, adding they are linked to a good economy.