By Kelly Many Guns
When entering Vancouver Island’s Stz’uminus First Nation’s Oyster Bay, drivers see a billboard sign that reads, “We are building a new town.” For months, the billboard has piqued the interest of many local residents, and last month construction began on the Oyster Bay Development, which will continue for at least the next five years.
Ray Gauthier, CEO Coast Salish Development says, the first phase of development is to develop 65 acres of land, with 10,000 square feet of retail & office buildings, an Esso Gas station and hotel and living residential area, all of which is already under construction.
“The land development at Oyster Bay has taken 4 to 5 years of planning,” said Gauthier. “When we’re done the hotel next summer, we’ll be creating 30 new jobs for the local community.”
Creating new jobs and a future is something the people of the Stz’uminus First Nation have been waiting for a long time.
“It couldn’t happen any faster,” said Gauthier, “some of the challenges we face are that First Nations businesses always have to be ten times better, and financing on First Nations is not easy, it’s a bit of a challenge.”
The community is ready to embrace those challenges.
Construction at Oyster Bay is the culmination of the Stz’uminus First Nation’s efforts to become a self-sufficient and self-governing nation. Stz’uminus has been working toward this goal to literally build a new future for many years and is essentially building a new municipality brick by brick.
Today, that work is yielding tangible results. Expected to grow to 1,300 residents by 2020, Oyster Bay is the keystone for Stz’uminus First Nation’s economic development. The new businesses and residents joining Oyster Bay will translate to revenue for the Nation, opportunities for Stz’uminus members and improved services for the entire community. With construction underway, the new town of Oyster Bay is fast becoming a reality.
Stz’uminus Chief John Elliott said, “To be successful, we knew we had to be able to move at the speed of business. A lot of work has gone into achieving that.”