Today, we look at Vesturbyggð, in the Westfjords, where voters welcome recent population growth but believe infrastructure has not developed alongside the change. Environmental issues are also high on the local agenda.
Vesturbyggð is one of the two municipalities in the southern Westfjords and was created in 1994 with the merger of Barðastrandarhreppur, Rauðasandshreppur, Bíldudalshreppur, and Patrekshreppur. The municipality is home to 1,131 people, which is 107 more than at the last election four years ago. Two candidate lists are running against each other.
Development and a growing population have been welcome in Vesturbyggð and have come partly thanks to the expanding aquaculture industry. But that industry comes with various challenges. Infrastructure development is as pressing an issue as ever—especially the state of mountain roads between local communities.
“The roads are broken and it is a project for them [the council] to get the government to enter into the project with them,” says Sigurður Viggósson, the chair of the Oddi fishing company in Patreksfjörður.
Patreksfjörður and Bíldudalur are both short on housing and ground was broken in Bíldudalur recently for ten new homes. Some of them will go on general sale, which will be the first time that brand-new homes are sold in the village for 30 years. But locals are clear on one thing: more new housing is still needed.
Pressure to re-open school
The growth has brought more children to Vesturbyggð and both parties have a new pre-school among their election promises.
At Birkimelur in Barðaströnd, the school was closed in 2016, when there were only two school-aged children in the area. This autumn, however, there will be 16 children.
Sveinn Viðarsson and Kristín Ósk Matthíasdóttir live in Vatnsfjörður and currently drive their three children to and from school in Patreksfjörður every day (around 45 minutes each way).
"It’s 64 kilometres each way, over Kleifarheiði mountain pass—and that mountain road was more or less always closed after New Year this winter,” Sveinn says. “I think it’s the top issue, at least on Barðaströnd, everyone agrees something needs to be done about these school issues.”
Environmental issues are top of the list for some residents, in part because of the proposed new national park in the southern Westfjords.
“Nature protection issues are left sitting on the shelf,” says Freyja Ragnarsdóttir, from Bíldudalur. “One hears more and more about them, but clearly more coverage is needed on nature conservation and the importance of nature.”
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.