I think this is good news for the City. Yeah, it is just a warehouse, but it is a huge warehouse: at almost 12 acres, it will have a 20% bigger footprint than BC Place. The few dozen jobs it provides are less important than the security of knowing that New Westminster’s largest industrial employer is investing further in the community. It is also good to have brownfields put back into the industrial tax base.
Go ahead, call me a faux environmentalist for saying good things about a stinkin’ paper mill, but Kruger is an example of value-added manufacturing for our domestic renewable resources, and have taken many steps to reduce the environmental impact of their products. Kruger is one of the leading producers of paper products from post-consumer fibres (that stuff you put out in the blue box). Here in New Westminster, they recently invested in a biomass gasification system to vaporize then burn scrap wood and paper and reduce their need for fossil fuels. Making paper can, ultimately, become a sustainable industry, and these small steps are heading that way down that very long road (maybe if we can all stop demanding that the paper we use to wipe our privates is whiter than the drifting snow? Ah, never mind)
As a caveat, any time you talk about a half-million square foot warehouse, you need to talk about how things are going in and out of the warehouse. This may represent a significant amount of truck traffic coming to the area of Queensborough that is already suffering from a freeway pushed through the middle of it and all the congestions, noise and emissions that come with it. The good news is that the Queensborough Landing site has two advantages: an adjacent rail spur, and an adjacent river. The river especially opens up and exciting opportunity: this could be a model situation for short sea shipping. The Kruger plant is 5km from this new warehouse by road (and that includes in increasingly-congested Queensborough Bridge), but it is less than 2km by the North Arm of the Fraser River. Kruger can reduce it’s greenhouse gasses and fuel costs significantly by using small barges to move goods between the two sites along a lightly-used piece of tidewater. This seems like a no-brainer, but I say this without knowing what regulatory nightmares Port Metro Vancouver might put in their way. It seems PMV is more interested in moving trucks around these days than dealing with actual floating things. Kruger has demonstrated an interest in being environmentally innovative in the past, let’s hope they follow through here.
I’m not just saying that because they sponsor curling. But it helps.