HNZ helicopter official cautiously optimistic

A helicopter official is hopeful after talking to government officials

Cautiously optimistic is how general manager Dave Schwartzenberger the HNZ Topflight helicopter training centre is describing his outlook after meeting with provincial and federal government officials the day before Friday’s national park announcement.

“I was happy to hear (Federal Environment) Minister McKenna’s acknowledgement of the helicopter in her speech, I think the interest is there and they know its important but it’s just the process that we’re still concerned about,” said Schwartzenberger, who also attended Friday’s announcement at the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre in Osoyoos. “The meeting (Thursday) was good we talked and they want to have us at the table which is encouraging but I think the biggest thing is that it allowed us the opportunity to bring all our points across.”

Both McKenna and B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman specifically made reference to helicopter use in the park area as being important.

However according to Schwartzenberger he did not receive any promises at this stage of the process.

“They just listened and obviously they’re not in a position to do anything. All they told us was this park is going to happen because of the cooperation between the Okanagan Nation Alliance and the BC government and the federal government.

“Process is starting again we’re all at the table and we want to make sure you’re included at the table.”

The company has required a government permit to operate within park boundaries, provincially since 2001 and Schwartzenberger says HNZ is continually being “squeezed” out of what they had been able to do traditionally for the past half century.

“It’s hard for us to move ahead without assurances from both levels.” he said. “Even if they give us a permit we need very clear and very precise answers.”

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An HNZ Topflight helicopter on Snowy Mountain. The company is hoping the government will allow continued training when the new national park is established. Submitted photo

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