SCOOTER OFF: Governor overrules city, orders Hurtigruten Svalbard to immediately remove dozens of snowmobiles from open field due to complaints


“No parking” of snowmobiles in a large field near the edge of Longyearbyen does not mean the city can violate its own code by declaring “except for a huge tourist fleet,” The Governor of Svalbard stated Friday in order demanding Hurtigruten Svalbard immediately remove dozens of its rental units from the area due to complaints from residents.

The field adjacent to The University Centre in Svalbard and two major snowmobile tour operators, including Hurtigruten, is classified in the city’s area plan as off-limits to parking. But Hurtigruten has long sought permission to use the area to store snowmobiles during the busy winter/spring season, with four other tour operators also expressing interest, according to Svalbardposten, which first reported the governor’s announcement.

Longyearbyen’s municipal government agreed to allow Hurtigruten temporary parking at the site and the governor’s office did not initially intervene or take a position on the decision, according to the newspaper. But after four of the eight residents on a nearby residential road objected to the decision due to noise, pollution and other impacts, the governor overruled the city’s decision.

“If minor changes are to be made to the area plan, it is assumed that the changes do not have consequences for other interests,” Morten Wedege, the governor’s environmental protection manager, told Svalbardposten. “In this case, there were objections to the changes. Therefore, we have told the city that the case cannot be defined as a minor change.”

Hurtigruten Svalbard Tourism Director Tore Hoem told the newspaper they will seek alternative parking space.

“We can use an area we have on our own site behind IGP, but it is somewhat inconvenient,” she said. “Therefore, we will probably apply to Store Norske to use other areas, beginning first in the area east of Svalbard Snøscooterutleie.”

Several comments posted online by the complaining residents and other locals in the hours following the order were complimentary about the outcome.

“Permanent residents should be in the forefront of decisions by both the governor and the city, while to at the same time facilitating businesses,” wrote Tommy Albrigtsen in a post on a local community Facebook page. “It cannot possibly be necessary that those in the industry must have customers 20 meters away from the payment terminal. It should also be in the interest of tour operators to spare permanent residents.”