CAVI – Convening for Action to Change the Way Land is Developed on Vancouver Island


Comox valley aerial

What the cell is to the body, the site is to the region

The projected growth of Vancouver Island and resulting cumulative impacts are drivers for reassessing where and how land is developed, and water is used. To promote a new way-of-thinking related to infrastructure policies and practices, CAVI-Convening for Action on Vancouver Island has organized Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation on Vancouver Island: The 2007 Series in partnership with three regional districts and a number of their member municipalities.

GIP9 - 2007 vancouver island series

The CAVI Story

At the Comox Valley event, Eric Bonham – a founding member of CAVI  who is described as the ‘heart and soul’ of CAVI – told the story behind CAVI and highlighted how the CAVI Partnership is translating a shared vision into action that is resulting in an expanding and inclusive partnership.

To download a copy of his PowerPoint presentation, please click on this link to Creating Our Future: Convening for Action on Vancouver Island.


Creating Our Future

“This all started in 2002 when I was still with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and a Director of BCWWA,” Eric Bonham told his audience, “I had the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of Vancouver Island and talk to people about the issues of concern to them. I would ask …where are we going on Vancouver Island.”

Eric bonham at comox showcasing eventEric elaborated on how it became clear through all these conversations that there was a shared concern: there was no forum for discussing the future of Vancouver Island. Filling this vacuum provided the impetus for CAVI.

To provide context for the Showcasing Innovation Series, Eric referred to a quote from Patrick Condon: What the cell is to the body, the site is to the region. “If we are to have a healthy Vancouver Island region, then every site needs to be developed in a manner that sustains the health of the region,” Eric postulated.


2-CAVI - meeting of the minds

Meeting of the Minds

According to Eric Bonham, the first step in filling the need for a regional forum was to establish a networking system. “We called it Meeting of the Minds,” Eric stated, “We convened a focus group of 40 people. It was a diverse group. That was deliberate.”

Eric noted that the session was facilitated by Kerry Elfstrom who asked the question: “What are the issues?”

“We conducted the session very much as a listening post,” Eric continued, “It was astounding what came out of it as a result of the incredible enthusiasm. We filtered the input into five themes: education, growth management, sustainability, governance and funding.”

The first Meeting of the Minds workshop was held in Parksville in September 2005. The second in the series was held in May 2006, again in Parksville.For the complete story on the 2005 and 2006  events, please click here.


3-CAVI - what does cavi do?

What Does CAVI Do?

The purpose of CAVI is to provide leadership, coordination, research and education for practitioners (primarily local government administrators, engineers, planners and elected persons) to plan for management of sustainable water resources in the context of burgeoning settlement activity.
“You will not find CAVI listed in the Yellow Pages,” joked Eric Bonham, “CAVI is a process, CAVI is a vision, CAVI is you and me and everyone else. That is the strength of this grass-roots initiative.”

He continued: “We are not government, but government is involved. We are not the private sector, but the private sector is part of CAVI. We are not academia, but academia is also under the umbrella. It is a collective effort to see where we can go on Vancouver Island, and do it in a way that is a little bit different. We are doing it as a genuine team.”

“The big issues are settlement and ecology,” Eric emphasized, “As Mayor Winchester said, it is precious what we have and unless we have a vision now, 50 years down the road we will end up where we don’t want to be.”

“Continued settlement is a given on Vancouver Island,” he added, “But ecology is taking a beating. So together let’s turn it around. Can we do it properly? Can we develop sustainably, protecting ecology in the process?”


4-CAVI -

It’s 2009 in 2007

The Meeting of the Minds series comprised two events, both of which were held in Parksville. The first was in September 2005; and the second was in May 2006. The momentum built quickly.

“It was after the May 2006 gathering that we decided to make the quantum leap,” reported Eric, “We said…okay, this has to go beyond the Meeting of the Minds concept. And so, at the Water in the City Conference we launched the idea of Convening for Action on Vancouver Island…..CAVI.”

As a shoulder event to the Gaining Ground Summit Conference in Victoria in June, CAVI held a consultation workshop titled Creating Our Future: What will Vancouver Island look like in 50 Years? This provided the springboard for launching the Showcasing Innovation Series.

Held on a Sunday, the workshop was by invitation. Attendance was capped at 50. The event attracted elected officials and senior managers from 19 local governments; and a balanced mix of representatives from provincial ministries, First Nations, the private sector, the real estate industry and academia.

“When we say today is 2009 in 2007, we simply mean that CAVI has been progressing very fast,” commented Eric, “The vision for creating our future together is capturing the attention of, and energizing, an ever expanding group of people.”


 5-CAVI - the expanding network

The CAVI Network

According to Eric Bonham, the strength of the CAVI approach on Vancouver Island is the engagement of its partners on a one on one basis who “buy in” to the vision of water-centric planning. The process is accumulative, as others from diverse backgrounds are drawn to the common goal of achieving water sustainability.

Each progressive step builds upon the previous success story, with the recognition that eventually all the players must be at the table including government, business, developers, consultants, First Nations, academics and citizens. Only through such an inclusive partnership will the fundamental shift towards integrated ‘design with nature’ water-centric land use planning on Vancouver Island become firmly established and practiced.


7-CAVI - what is coming next?

What is CAVI Doing?

Building on the momentum generated by the Creating Our Future Workshop, CAVI has partnered with three regional districts and their member municipalities to successfully implement the Showcasing Green Infrastructure Innovation Series in September/October.

CAVI is also partnering with the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities to hold a Green Infrastructure Leadership Forum in December.

The focus of the Leadership Forum will be on A Positive Settlement Strategy for Vancouver Island that identifies the  necessary link between accommodating settlement growth while protecting the ecological systems upon which community well being depends.

According to Eric Bonham, “The Green Infrastructure Leadership Forum will take us to the next level of awareness. We will be encouraging participants to look outside the box and stretch their minds to look at Vancouver Island as a whole.  It is possible. The only thing potentially stopping us is a limited vision in continuing to think inside the box. We certainly look to the Leadership Forum as the next leap forward for CAVI.”

 8-CAVI - keys to success

Keys to Success

Four operating principles are guiding the actions and activities of CAVI. “We try our best not to preach,” stated Eric Bonham, “At the same time, we certainly believe in the CAVI vision and are passionate when we ask the question: what will this place look like in 50 years? It is our passion that is infectious.”

“The success of the Showcasing Innovation Series is an indicator of how the CAVI approach is resonating,” added Eric.


9-CAVI - the mission

CAVI Mission

According to Eric Bonham, “The operative words are vision, partnerships, communications, ecological integrity, human well-being, sustainability, water-WIC workshop - eric bonham, sept 2006centric…and simply put …a desire to work together for Vancouver Island.”

In concluding his overview, Eric quoted from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a group of concerned citiizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever does. And that is where we are today with CAVI.”

10-CAVI - it started with a conversation



Who is CAVI?

The CAVI Partnership comprises the British Columbia Water & Waste Association, the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia, the provincial Ministries of Environment and Community Services, and the Green Infrastructure Partnership.

CAVI is co-funded by the Province and the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia. The Water Sustainability Committee of the BCWWA is the managing partner and is providing program delivery. For more information about the CAVI Partnership and what it wants to do, please click here.

 CAVI logp

Posted October 2007