Important Information

Important Information

2003 Descanso Bay Emergency Wharf Referendum
Important information for Electoral Area ‘B’ residents
(Gabriola Island, Flat Top Islands, Mudge Island, Decourcy Island)

Residents and property electors in the Regional District of Nanaimo’s Electoral Area “B”, which includes Gabriola Island, Flat Top Islands, Mudge Island and Decourcy Island may vote in the 2003 Descanso Bay Emergency Wharf Referendum being held Saturday, November 1, 2003.

Residents and property electors who meet voting qualifications can vote on the referendum day or at the advance polls.

The Referendum Question

“Are you in favour of the Regional District of Nanaimo adopting Descanso Bay Wharf Service Bylaw No. 1357, 2003, which would:

  • Create a service for the establishment, construction, operation and maintenance of wharf facilities in Electoral Area 'B' (Gabriola Island); and


  • Impose an annual tax requisition within the Service Area as follows:


    1. in the first year following the establishment of the service, the greater of $70,515 or $15.20 per $100,000 of assessment ($0.152 per $1,000) applied to the net taxable value of land and improvements; and
    2. in the second and subsequent years after adoption of the Bylaw the greater of $7,880 or $1.70 per $100,000 of assessment ($0.017 per $1,000) applied to the net taxable value of land and improvements?"
To pass, 50 per cent plus one of all votes cast must be in favour of the bylaw.

Advance Voting Days
8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Wed., Oct. 22nd and 29th, 2003
Gabriola Island Elementary School Library
680 North Road, Gabriola Island, BC

General Voting Day
8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sat., Nov. 1st, 2003
Gabriola Island Elementary School
680 North Road, Gabriola Island, BC

For more information on voting or the referendum contact Carol Mason, Chief Election Officer or Maureen Pearse, Deputy Chief Election Officer at (250) 390-4111, or toll free at 1-877-607-4111 or visit the RDN Website at


Why is the wharf needed?
A wharf facility with safe and reliable access for emergency use has been needed on Gabriola Island for some time. There are no public wharf facilities within a reasonable distance to Nanaimo that provide year round safe access. Medical emergencies and times of interrupted ferry service are the key reasons such a facility is required.

Why did after hours service by BC Ferries change?
In the past, BC Ferries has assisted the BC Ambulance Services with after hours medical evacuation services for the residents of Gabriola Island. This service was volunteered by the crews, subject to availability. Due to changing conditions for crew members, BC Ferries can no longer muster the crew legally required to operate the ferry outside of normal operating hours.

If BC Ferries decides in the future to assist in after hours emergency evacuations, will the wharf become redundant?
The wharf would still serve as a back-up should there be a vessel breakdown or if the BC Ferries’ loading ramp is out of service. There is presently no suitable wharf that could be used if the ferry service was not operational.

Why isn’t the current wharf that is used for medical evacuations adequate?
The wharf is privately owned and is not a dedicated facility for emergency evacuations. The road leading into the facility is steep and is not maintained to a standard required to ensure year round access in case of emergencies.

Why not just use a helicopter for evacuations?
Helicopters have been used for evacuations for life threatening medical emergencies, weather permitting. The BC Ambulance service determines the level of service required for medical evacuations on a case by case basis.

Why can’t we use the Green Wharf facility for evacuations?
Evacuations from Green Wharf take significant travel time to reach Nanaimo. There is a steep hill and limited maneuverability and lighting for emergency vehicles.

How much will the new emergency evacuation wharf and service cost?
The acquisition, development and construction of the emergency wharf will cost $70,515. Maintenance in subsequent years has been estimated to cost $7,880 per year. A residential property assessed at $200,000 would pay a one time tax requisition $30.40 in the first year. In subsequent years, a residential property assessed at $200,000 would pay $3.40 per year to maintain the wharf facility.

Will emergency medical evacuations from the proposed wharf be safe and will they be fast?
The BC Ambulance Service notes that transport using the Nanaimo Port Authority vessel has proven safe and reliable. The crossing time using the current wharf has averaged 23 minutes. The crossing time to the proposed Descanso Bay emergency wharf would average 15 minutes.

The vessel and the ambulance are dispatched simultaneously, ensuring the vessel is at the dock when the ambulance arrives, and would depart within 10 minutes of the ambulance’s arrival. Total travel time from the arrival of the ambulance at the wharf to docking at Nanaimo would be approximately 25 minutes.

All trips to Gabriola Island using the Harbour Commission vessel are staffed with BC Ambulance Paramedics from Nanaimo. They prepare for and accompany the patient on the trip to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

Will the new wharf be used for general access?
The emergency evacuation wharf would only be used by the BC Ambulance Service, other emergency service providers and for unscheduled service interruptions experienced by BC Ferries.

Does the BC Ambulance Service and the Gabriola Fire Department support the wharf facility initiative?
These organizations support the development of the wharf facility for emergency evacuations.

When would the facility be built if the referendum is in favour of the bylaw?
Construction would begin in January with completion early 2004.

Who will maintain the wharf?
The wharf would be maintained using contracted services managed by the Regional District of Nanaimo.

How can I get more information on this proposed emergency wharf facility?
Call RDN Transportation Services at (250) 390-6565 or toll-free 1-877-607-4111 or visit the RDN Website at

Construction drawing of Gabriola Island Emergency Evacuation Wharf Facility


Construction drawing of Gabriola Island Emergency Evacuation Wharf Facility

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