Responses from Central Saanich, North Saanich and Sidney to calls for more regional coordination on environmental policy are encouraging, but more work lies ahead.
So says Bob Peart, who helped coordinate the Saanich Peninsula Environmental Coalition, consisting of nine local groups. He is encouraged after presenting the Saanich Peninsula Bioregional Framework to the respective municipal councils of Central Saanich, North Saanich and Sidney.
The three councils appear comfortable with the concept of working together as well with the WSANEC nation, Peart said.
“What we are looking for next is some sort of an implementation plan,” he said. “Yes, you can adopt, but what does that really mean? How will it be brought into the OCP (official community plan) conversation?”
The framework is billed as a holistic approach to environmental health and management and the coalition has advocated for its adoption across the Peninsula. Both emerged against the backdrop of Saanich Peninsula communities reviewing their respective OCPs governing future land use and using the same consultant.
“There is a real opportunity to develop this sub-regional approach and leave a bit of a legacy, if that is the right word, so that the people have a sense that the Peninsula is in good hands for the next few decades,” Peart said. “If we had three different consultants working on the OCP right now, it would be really awkward.”
Broadly, he said, the framework is intended to ensure that the Saanich Peninsula remains healthy.
“And by healthy, we mean two things – the environment is healthy and the citizens and the communities that live here are healthy – and people recognize that you need one to have the other.”
Sidney and North Saanich councils have asked staff to prepare additional feedback, while Central Saanich has referred the framework to its OCP advisory committee and advisory planning commission for feedback.
Peart said the coalition will now follow how the municipalities implement the framework into their respective OCP reviews, highlighting specific items.
“We talk about a Peninsula-wide state of the environment report and having a baseline, so that 20, 30 years from now, we will be able to see whether we are making progress or not,” he said.
“We talk about councils working together and may be having every other year a Peninsula-wide summit, like the Sidney Summit was. And we talk about maybe we need to hire common environment and climate persons rather than each of them hiring someone. Maybe there is a way of pooling resources.”
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