Hrísey Island Receives Development Grant of ISK Ten Million 

Hrísey Island has received a regional development grant of ISK ten million, RÚV reports. The Áfram Hrísey (‘Onwards, Hrísey’) grant is intended to increase available housing and draw new residents to the island.

The island of Hrísey is located 35 km [22 mi] north of Akureyri and although small (approx. 7.67 km2 or 2.96 mi2), is known for its rich bird life. Forty species of birds make their home on Hrísey, with ptarmigans being particularly prolific. It is also home to the largest breeding colony of Arctic terns in Europe.

By comparison, however, only 200 people live on the island, and this is something that the grant seeks to address. “Right now, our most pressing issue is housing,” says resident Ásrún Ýr Gestsdóttir, who has been hired as the grant’s project manager. “We have people who want to move here, but we don’t have housing for them. We have a lot of houses, but almost half of them are empty for most of the month or the year.”

The grant will make it possible to accelerate the process of building new housing and drawing more people to the island full-time. “Up until now, almost everything has been done by volunteers here…we’ve just been doing it whenever possible, sending news to the media while eating dinner. Right now, there’s only one person submitting something for us and contacting the planning department in Akureyri and the town council and people we need to call.”

“We hope that when this project ends in spring 2024, we’ll have seen some progress,” says Ásrún Ýr. “That there will have been some construction and that more people will have moved here with either a permanent presence in our remote work center or even gotten started with something new, new employment opportunities.”

Fire Destroys Freezing Plant on Hrísey Island

Hrísey fire

A fire on Hrísey island, off Iceland’s north coast, has destroyed a freezing plant in the island’s harbour, RÚV reports. The fire started in Hrísey Seafood’s facilities last night and it took fire crews from three localities to put it out. No injuries have been sustained.

“There was a lot of fire and a lot of smoke when we arrived. We got notice of it ten minutes past five and it was very clear that we wouldn’t be able to do much here, we locals,” stated Þröstur Jóhannson, one of the island’s 167 residents and a member of the local fire brigade. He says the first is a huge blow to the islanders, who are nevertheless doing their best to keep their chins up.

Hrísey is a small island located in Eyjafjörður fjord, North Iceland, around 35 kilometres from Akureyri. It is one of four islands off Iceland’s coast that are inhabited year-round.

Hrísey Optimistic About Development Initiative

Inhabitants of the island of Hrísey are more optimistic about the ongoing ‘Fragile Communities’ initiative in which their community is participating, RÚV reports. The regional development project began on Hrísey 2015 and will end in December 2019; it’s anticipated that it will invest more in marketing initiatives for the island this year.

A project of the Icelandic Regional Development Institute, the Fragile Communities project (link in English) was founded in 2012 with the intention of collaborating with rural communities to address and counteract issues that have contributed to their decline, such as a lack of diversity in the local economy, changes to fisheries access, a decline in farming, seasonal tourism, a “negative spiral” in services, and lagging infrastructural development. Raufarhöfn in Northeast Iceland was the first community to participate in the initiative, which it did from 2012 – 2017. Since then, eight other communities have joined the project.

Hrísey is a small island (7.67 km2 / 2.96 m2) located in Eyjafjörður fjord, located 30 kilometres north of Akureyri and a fifteen-minute ferry ride from the village of Ásskógssandur. As of January 2018, 151 people lived on the island.

When Hrísey joined the project, its stated goal was the establishment of an “inviting and accessible island community, [with] a diverse economy and strong infrastructure.” However, many residents have felt that the Fragile Communities project was yielding few results in its initial years and, in 2017, criticized its implementation. Since then, however, many of the community’s smaller goals have been accomplished says Helga Íris Ingólfsdóttir, the Fragile Communities project manager for both Hrísey and Grímsey island. A new salt production facility was established on Hrísey, for example, as was a guest house and restaurant. An egg production plant, with facilities for 1,500 hens, will also soon open, thanks to funding from a Fragile Community grant. All combined, this has led to a perceptible change of attitude in the community. “I felt like there was more optimism than there’s been before,” Helga said. “People have more of an interest in taking a different approach to the debate.”

Helga said that expectations run high for government-funded initiatives, but that resources are nevertheless limited. “There’s just a few million krónur [ISK 1 million is equal to $8,315/€7,267] that we receive to distribute in grants,” she explained. “So this is more about showing solidarity and the desires of the inhabitants and their vision for the future, rather than there ever being some sort of direct, external assistance.”

This year, the project will be investing in marketing Hrísey. The goal is to attract more tourists to the island and appeal to investors who might be interested exploiting the island’s unique qualities and establishing new business opportunities there.

“Now there’s more experience behind the project, and there’s optimism that this will return real results,” said Halla Björk Reynisdóttir, president of the municipal council.