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ENVIRONMENT

Online campaign raises money for Freya walrus statue in Norway

An online campaign has raised over $20,000 to build a statue in Norway for Freya, a beloved walrus that was euthanised by officials at the weekend.

Pictured is a stock photo of a walrus.
An online campaign is raising funds to build a statue to honour Freya, a walrus euthanised by officials. Pictured is a stock photo of a walrus. Photo by Romy Vreeswijk on Unsplash

The walrus gained global attention after she was spotted basking in the Oslo fjord, attracting large crowds keen to spot the 600-kilogram
(1,300-pound) marine mammal.

She was put down on Sunday after officials said she was showing signs of stress and feared she was a threat to the public, who did not keep their distance as requested.

On Wednesday, an online campaign had so far raised 210,000 Norwegian krone ($21,600) to build a statue in the young walrus’s honour.

The campaign’s organiser said the statue should serve as a reminder for future generations to protect animals.

“The culling of Freya sends the extremely negative message that Norway, and in particular Oslo, is not able to make room for wild animals,” Erik Holm said on the fundraising website Spleis.no.

“By erecting a statue of the symbol that Freya has become in such a short time, we will remind ourselves (and generations to come) that we cannot and should not kill or erase nature when it is in our path.”

Freya, estimated to be around five years old, had already been sighted in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden and chose to spend part of the summer in Norway.

She had made headlines since July 17 when she was first spotted in the waters of the Norwegian capital.

The walrus is a protected species that normally lives in the even more northerly latitudes of the Arctic.

Between long naps in the sun — a walrus can sleep up to 20 hours a day — Freya had been filmed chasing a duck, attacking a swan and dozing on boats struggling to support her bulk.

Despite repeated appeals, curious onlookers continued to approach the mammal, sometimes with children in tow, to take photographs.

Walruses do not normally behave aggressively towards humans, but they can feel threatened by intruders and attack.

Critics said the decision to put the animal down was rushed and did not take her well-being into account.

Officials said sedating Freya and moving her to a less populated area would be too complex an operation.

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ENERGY

How a new energy tax could impact public spending in Oslo and Bergen 

A new energy tax proposed by the Norwegian government could significantly reduce the public spending powers of the city councils in Oslo and Bergen.

How a new energy tax could impact public spending in Oslo and Bergen 

Earlier this week, the government unveiled plans for new taxes on fish farming and energy production. The basic interest tax on hydropower will be increased from 37 to 45 per cent if proposals are given the green light by parliament.

“The community needs greater income in the coming years so that we can together protect good welfare for all. After many years of increased inequality, it is absolutely necessary that those who have the most, and in many cases have received significantly more in recent years, contribute more,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said at a press conference. 

Bergen and Oslo may lose out on income as a new energy tax will hit the bottom lines of electricity companies owned by local authorities in Oslo and Bergen. In turn, this may affect the municipal budgets of both cities. 

Power firm Eviny estimates that it will have to pay an extra 2.5 billion kroner in tax in 2022 due to the government’s proposal for a tax increase for farming companies and electricity companies, Bergensavisen reports. Bergen Municipality holds 37.75 percent stake in Eviny. 

“We have no idea the extent of these changes yet, but we must expect the yield to be reduced. The uncertainty is a disturbing element in our budget planning,” Per-Arne Larsen, finance councillor with Bergen Municipality, told Bergenavisen. 

In Oslo, the city council could feel the squeeze of the tax rule even more than in Bergen, as Oslo Municipality owns energy firm Hafslund in full. 

Oslo City Council depends on its energy firm’s income to fund public spending. Finance councillor Einar Wilhelmsen told newspaper Avisa Oslo that if the proposed tax increase goes through, the municipality would need to rip up its budget for 2023 and start over. 

Next week will see the state budget for 2023 announced. Municipalities will be waiting to see how much the government is willing to allocate to local authorities- as this may offset losses from the new energy tax. 

READ ALSO: How much money do I need to live in Bergen?

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