Updated: Feb 26, 2018
The vice mayor of Kiruna´s socialist party talks about the city transformation.
Gregor Kallina: What is the role of the community in comparison to the role of LKAB (the state owned mining company) in the course of the city transformation?
Niklas Siren: Well, it is rather natural, LKAB are the experts in iron ore mining and we are the experts in how to build a society. We explain to them what needs to be in place and then we negotiate about providing the community with everything from infrastructure to buildings. We also need experts from their side and we need to reinforce our civil servants to deal with particular situations, especially the legal issues.
Can you give an example for this?
We agreed that LKAB build the new city hall, they pay for it and then they hand over the keys to us. But, as the law foresees, the building has to be written off within the municipality budget. That would affect many sectors, schools, care for the elder people etc. We move the city not only for the sake of the mine but also for the sake of all swedish people, as it contributes to the state treasury, the last 10 years around 50 billion swedish krona. So that is fine, but you cannot put the burden of the city transformation on the taxpayers of Kiruna. In the end we found a legal loophole which allowed us not to include the write offs in our budget.
With regard to the identity and the vision, at the moment there seems to be some kind of "identity gap", as people are planning what to do in the future, but the city centre is not built yet. There is the danger that people´s plans are further developed than what is already tangible, asking themselves „where am i“?
We did a lot of infrastructure like electricity, moving the train station, building roads, etc., but this was not tangible enough for the people. The city hall now is the breaking point and there are hardly people left who think this will not happen. Slowly but surely the mindset of people is changing. After all, there is no alternative to the mine, at least for the next years to come.
"Therefore you have to come beyond the grieving process of what will be lost, but to develop the attitude of „what can we create, what can we do better?“
Picture above: The former building of "Tusen Toner" ("a thousand sounds") it was demolished in 2017. It was right next to the place Niklas Siren grew up.
Are house prices increasing, because people are already starting to move?
Actually not because people started to move, it was more the positive outlook for the mine in the future. Low unemployment, a prosperous future for the mine and high wages contributed mostly to the rise in prices. The miners have high wages, but, to avoid competition, the other sectors and the municipality have also high wages. 35% of the surface area of Kiruna will be lost and moving to new places has started since the decision to transfer the city has been made. Already in the existing areas at the city edges new apartments were built and are being built to meet the increasing demand. In fact also people moved to the new apartments that are not affected by the ground deformations, even when the rent was higher.
Picture above: The current building of Tusen Toner, the local music club. Niklas Siren used to play there with a band.
THE NEW CITY CENTRE
When will the city centre be opened?