Today, we look at Fjallabyggð, where local people have transportation high on the agenda, as mudslides and avalanches block and damage roads in the municipality more often than in most other parts of Iceland. Locals are also calling on councillors to pay more attention to housing matters.
More sharing thanks to tunnel
Fjallabyggð, a municipality in North Iceland with nearly 2,000 residents centred in the towns of Ólafsfjörður and Siglufjörður, has always had transport issues at its heart. In fact, the municipality arguably exists because of the Héðinsfjarðargöng tunnel, the construction of which had been assured when the towns merged in 2006. With the once-slow-and-treacherous route converted to a direct tunnel that stays open in all weathers, the towns of Siglufjörður and Ólafsfjörður have since grown to share many amenities—not least the single primary school that serves both communities.
Barber Jón Hrólfur Baldursson is one of many who say transport is top of the list of priorities ahead of this week’s election. Regular landslides and avalanches that close roads make locals feel insecure—despite the existence of the tunnel, he says.
Shopkeeper Valgerður Þorsteinsdóttir agrees: “Of course fixes are needed. Another tunnel is needed on both sides. We are a bit closed, shut in, if there is a risk of avalanches or landslides. This is not security; absolutely not,” she says—referring to both towns’ connection to neighbouring municipalities and the rest of Iceland.
Shortage of housing
There are 1,977 people living in Fjallabyggð and three lists of candidates are standing for election: Sjálfstæðisflokkurinn (the Independence Party), Listi jafnaðarfólks og óháðra (the list of centre-left people and independents), and H-listi fyrir heildina (H List for the Whole).
The two towns’ economies are based on fishing, but tourism has become increasingly important; especially in Siglufjörður. The diversity of the local economy has increased, but locals complain of a lack of housing.
"It’s pointless to just attract people and then have nothing for the people who move to town,” says Valgerður.
Jón Hrólfur says he is also aware of the debate: “I am only speaking for what I hear most in the [barber’s] chair, but there are a lot of older residents who say there is a need for apartments for elderly people, smaller apartments.”
For more information on the local elections this May, see the Multicultural Information Centre’s dedicated election page, here. Information from the government is here. And you can find out whether, and where, you can vote by entering your kennitala here. RÚV English will compile all Election 2022 news on this page.