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Notes from the February 20, 2020 Public Engagement Evening Organized by the Saanich Peninsula Environmental Coalition

SaanichPeninsulaEnvironmentalCoalition-PosterOption2

Summary Notes
SPEC Community Meeting
Thursday, February 20, 2020
1.0 Background
SPEC’s goal is to encourage the development of an Integrated Management Framework (IMF) that will be legally incorporated into each of North Saanich, Sidney and Central Saanich’s Official Community Plans (OCPs) as a set of common key principles [or ‘meta OCP’ or vision statement] prior to the next municipal election in November 2022. These principles will, in turn, guide the process for updating the three Council’s various regulations and bylaws accordingly. Within the context of the climate change, the focus is fourfold:
1. Conserving beach spawning habitats for forage fish to help support healthy marine food webs;
2. Establishing a north-south and east-west landscape framework to help preserve ecological connectivity throughout the Peninsula,
3. Building public awareness of the concept of an IMF and why it is important for the future ecological health of the Saanich Peninsula, while highlighting areas of public concern and how they might best be addressed.
4. Using these activities and more to establish the Saanich Peninsula as a progressive and cohesive human community respectful of its surrounding natural community, a place where it is very good to live.
In February 2020, about 70 members of the public and representatives of a number of community organizations from the Saanich Peninsula gathered to learn, listen and provide input to SPEC regarding the concept of an Integrated Management Framework.

The evening speakers talked about the importance of cooperation, and respecting and conserving the future ecological health of the Saanich Peninsula. The speakers were:
Bob Peart, SPEC Coordinator
Tiffany Joseph, WSANEC Leadership Council
Adam Olsen, Saanich North and the Islands MLA
Roy Brooke, Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (www.mnai.ca)
Geoff Orr, Mayor North Saanich
Cliff McNeil-Smith, Mayor Sidney
Ryan Windsor, Mayor Central Saanich
The speakers were followed by a facilitated conversation focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of an integrated management framework, and the key questions that the IMF concept raised. Following is a three-part summary of the group facilitated discussion, integrated with the notes taken at each table.

2.0 Summary

It should be noted that the Integrated Management Plan or IMF alluded to in this summary is one that encompasses all three Peninsula municipalities and is generally approved by all stakeholders, including those represented in the Saanich Peninsula Environmental Coalition
2.1 Strengths

• Saanich Peninsula is a small enough, well-defined geographical entity with environmentally conscious citizens and politicians for an IMF to work.
• A huge collaborative opportunity exists with good and willing leadership in each of the three Peninsula municipalities and all three OCP’s under simultaneously under review
• Biodiversity, intact watersheds, healthy ecosystems, wildlife and a rich coastal zone are our core values and the IMF approach honors them.
• An integrated management framework recognizes that natural processes are not confined by municipal boundaries.
• This collaborative approach acknowledges the climate concerns and the key principles of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
• Peninsula-wide integration of OCP’s might lead to better ‘zoning’ (so people don’t build where they shouldn’t) a consensus regarding growth areas, and improved conservation of nature.
• It is wonderful to see the word ‘integrated’.
• An IMF will help to establish standards, a vision for growth and an accountability mechanism for municipal decisions.
• It is exciting that the local First Nations have expressed interest in the IMF idea. The challenge is to ensure that the conversations with them are meaningful and help lead to reconciliation.
• The IMF will help identify future natural asset projects that should be undertaken, provide a shared, comprehensive view of how to control growth and services and the improved allocation of funding.
• Together the three municipalities will have more clout, it will strengthen connections, improve communication and help bread down silos so work together better than in the past. An IMF will allow for more synergy.
• Numerous documents and background reports exist, let’s review them and build that information into the process.
• The evening was a reminder that the Peninsula is in pretty good shape with relatively intact natural assets.
• Achieving an IMF An IMF would encourage us to focus on an integrated approach to managing our watersheds.
• Achieving an IMF seems like a good process for steering development pressures for the overall good of the community and the peninsula.
• Achieving an IMF would build public awareness and improve the knowledge of where we live.
• Achieving an IMF will shine a light on the importance of preserving natural assets – both their economic and aesthetic benefits.
• A functioning IMF could save money that would be spent on standard infrastructure and should save some funds that are currently duplicated in each municipality.
• Achieving an IMF will highlight the importance of protecting shoreline habitat for forage fish and conserving watersheds for spawning salmon.
• Will force Councils(s) to have a broader perspective and breadth of vision.
• If we don’t manage growth it will lead to a reduction of quality of life.
• An IMF will bring best management practices for natural resources to the fore.
• Once implemented the process and product can be a model for other municipalities.

2.2 Concerns

• This approach has a degree of complexity that will require education for staff, local officials and citizens to understand and appreciate what is being planned.
• This process should not put too much restriction on the private land owner.
• First Nations knowledge and insight may not be sufficiently represented in this process – let’s use it and bring it into the process in a fulsome, respectful manner.
• The municipal roles concerning boundaries and administrative duties need to be clarified, especially regarding delivery, accountability and evaluation.
• Currently the knowledge of the Peninsula’s geography isn’t that comprehensive, particularly if you haven’t lived here for a while.
• In order to ensure all interests are represented and considered beyond those of environmentalists, we need time for a community conversation. If this conversation is delayed unduly the urgency of the matter will be lost.
• We must not forget the value of our soils and Agricultural Lands in the conversation.
• We have the promise and outline, but let’s see the plan and how it will be made sustainable, operational and implemented.
• Staff are already stretched; how will they absorb this additional workload?
• Managing watersheds is multi-jurisdictional and complicated.
• How are the CRD, Parks Canada, the Airport to be integrated into an IMF and how will a Peninsula IMF link with the adjoining Saanich jurisdiction?
• When there is a disagreement between the municipalities, there will need to be a dispute mechanism of some sort.
• The objectives and vision require more focus and priorities (as you can’t do it all), especially the plan itself, the timeframe, the goals, evaluation and accountability for delivery. Get these details settled now in order to ensure that the management that comes later is on the right track.
• Where is the responsibility for delivery going to sit to ensure that what is adopted in the OCP’s is enacted and delivered on? This isn’t just a ‘wish list’ we want it implemented. We need a delivery system that will ensure sustainability.
o To ensure there is delivery, and it remains true to a set of on-going living integrated principles, might there be a long-term advisory board established?
• The Peninsula is under development pressure and there is an urgency to deal with today’s issues not just those of the future. OCP’s take about 2 years to develop. We need to deal with hot topics in the interim – such as urban forests, eel grass, forage fish, dogs, housing, salmon streams, blue heron nests, tree removal and soil protection.
• Our parks are not really protected as there is little enforcement, they are under huge pressure and require stewardship.
2.3 Key Questions

• How do we synchronize the input to 3 OCP’s for an overall holistic approach to managing the Peninsula; especially development pressure since each municipality has such a different rural, urban and farmland mix?
• What roles do the CRD, federal and provincial governments have in this process?
o And the WSANEC Leadership Council, what is their role?
• What will be the public process to engage both friends and foe?
• What’s the hook to inspire citizens to be involved, is it the climate and urgency for the conversation? How can you build the appetite for this, as it is a good idea?
• Will this process address the derelict boat, illegal docks and illegal buoys situations?
• What are the next step(s) and timetable? The process needs to be clearer than it is right now with an action plan and implementation schedule.
• Is there an existing inventory of our natural assets, if not should one be assembled?
• How ca we ensure that the Councils will adopt strong public engagement to the OCP review process and include good ideas such as this one? Should a SPEC representative be a member of each of the OCP committees?
• Will this process serve a restoration function as well? Set aside a special three-council restoration fund for such places as Mermaid Creek/Roberts Bay.
• Will the Councils need extra funding (or a level of taxation) to plan and to implement an IMF, and if so where will that funding come from?
• Is there some level of integration already on the Peninsula (or elsewhere) that we can learn from? if yes let’s build on that rather than reinvent the wheel.
3.0 Wrap Up
The evening was a positive discussion and there was strong interest in pursuing the integrated management framework. The ‘devil is in the details’ as can be seen in the above notes; however, there was a feeling in the room that we should pusue this integrated approach vigourously. Emerging themes from the discussion can be summarized as follows:

• We note an overall positive response to the proposal of an IMF because we need to conserve the natural elements of the Peninsula and take action on the emerging issues that are threatening the future of the lands, waters and shoreline.
• Involvement of the First Nations and WSANEC Leadership Council is essential for success.
• The role of the CRD and other outside government bodies need to be clarified.
• How best can we implement the principles and vision of an IMf once embedded in the three OCP’s in order to ensure they are integrated into the operations of the municipalities? That is to say that they are being actively considered, have funding support and are sustainable long term.
• How to resolve the contrast between the urgency of the present situation with the lengthy bureaucratic OCP process?
• An inventory of our natural assets would be valuable to both protect and use these assets more effectively, recognizing that adequate ‘green infrastructure’ is critical to liveable natural and human communities.
For more information:
Contact: Bob Peart 250-655-0295
Webpage: https://shoalharbour.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/582167729298199/about/

nymph point arbutus

Arbutus in rain at Nymph Point Park, a sacred first Nations site in Tsheum (Shoal) Harbour

 

 

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