Polish delegates were received by Mayoress Ásthildur Sturludóttir and her team. The meeting was organised as part of bilateral co-operation between Polish and Norwegian cities and towns under the aegis of the “Local Development” Programme.
Located in the northern part of the island and a runner-up to Reykjavik, Akureyri is Iceland’s second-largest town with an approximate population of 20,000. Numbering around 600, Poles are the largest national minority in town. Akureyri is both a capital and service centre for northern Iceland. The developing dynamic and growing population numbers notwithstanding, the local government are aiming to double the number of local residents.
A series of workshops, meetings and on-site inspections have been an opportunity for us to find out how the townhall – with backing from partners – plans and handles municipal development, and how key areas of local government operations are managed. Bilateral co-operation between Jelenia Góra and Akureyri focuses on public services and transport digitisation, and the use of geothermal energy.
Icelanders’ respect for geothermal energy has been an eye-opener. While energy sourced in the Earth’s interior is ostensibly inexhaustible, works are constantly in progress to optimise its use, minimise thermal losses, and set up a so-called energy cascade: combining recipients of successively cooler water resources into interlocked energy systems. Iceland’s famous heated pavements are no whim, but rather an optimum way of using return heat from swimming pools or public utilities, for example. We can learn much from Icelanders when it comes to spatial planning as well. Iceland applies the rule of developing housing in close proximity to services and infrastructure, all constructed before residential estates are built. Zoning procedures are integrated with development planning, individual masterplans recognised as supreme documents bringing all processes together.
Despite the considerable distance between our two countries, we continue discovering the volume of things we share. Issues and challenges faced by local governments over 2,500 km apart are frequently similar. Thank you for your warm welcome to Akureyri – here’s hoping for bringing our two towns even closer in collaboration and exchange of knowledge!