FLASHBACK TO 2011 AND THE VANCOUVER ISLAND ECONOMIC SUMMIT: “The four Comox Valley local governments and the Comox Valley Land Trust are ‘convening for action’ around a water-centric approach to land development,” stated Glen Westendorp at a pre-summit forum about the unfunded infrastructure liability as a driver for sustainable service delivery

Note to Reader:

The 2011 State of the Island Economic Summit in Nanaimo included four pre-Summit sessions. One of these was hosted by Convening for Action on Vancouver Island (CAVI) in association with the VIEA Sustainability Task Force.

Branded as a ‘Forum within the Summit’, the focus of this session was on solutions to the ‘infrastructure liability’ challenge confronting all local governments. The Comox Valley is a provincial demonstration region for a regional and replicable approach to Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery. The Comox Valley regional team told their story and provided a context for open dialogue about challenges and solutions.

The sustainable service delivery theme for the ‘Forum within the Summit’ was just a year after the Province of British Columbia’s Glen Brown first conceived the term as a way to brand the future direction of asset management. He introduced the term to a Vancouver Island audience at the 2010 Nanaimo Region Water Pricing Workshop. Local governments in the Comox Valley were early adopters of the concept and the vision.

To download a document that explains the Forum structure and foreshadowed what would be covered, click on Convening for Action Vision for the Forum within the Summit

The Public Infrastructure Dilemma – How Will We Sustain Our Water, Our Streets and Ourselves?

“Sustainable Service Delivery is the Province’s branding for a comprehensive approach to infrastructure asset management. This approach goes beyond an accountant’s life-cycle analysis,” stated Kim Stephens in October 2011. The Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, Kim Stephens was the team leader and moderator for the ‘Forum within the Summit’.

Kim stephens (120p) - 2009“A primary driver for doing business differently is the unfunded infrastructure liability. This refers to the financial challenge currently facing all local governments. The challenge is sometimes referred to as ‘the 20/80 rule’ because the initial capital cost of municipal infrastructure only represents about 20% of the ultimate life-cycle cost. Paying for the other 80% is at the heart of the public infrastructure dilemma. Each year the funding shortfall grows.”

Showcasing the Comox Valley Regional Team

“The Forum within the VIEA Summit provided the opportunity to showcase how one region – the Comox Valley – is responding to the challenge and developing a regional response to infrastructure liability.

“Four local governments (Courtenay, Comox, Cumberland, Comox Valley Regional District), the Comox Valley Land Trust, and TimberWest are striving to work across boundaries; align efforts at a watershed scale; and walk the talk in applying the ‘4Cs’ – that is, communicate, cooperate, coordinate and collaborate.”

An Integrated Watershed Approach to Settlement

In collaborating as a regional team, the ultimate goal of the participating agencies was to maximize the intersection of the elements that comprise An Integrated Watershed Approach to Settlement. This meant creating linkages among the different area of action – that is, what the plans would achieve.

“The four Comox Valley local governments and the Comox Valley Land Trust are ‘convening for action’ around a water-centric approach to land development. A desired outcome is that water sustainability would be achieved through implementation of green infrastructure practices. We believe this can be accomplished through sharing of experiences and pooling of resources to achieve more with less,” reported Glenn Westendorp, Chair of the 2011 Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series. At the time he was the Public Works Superintendent with the Town of Comox.


To download a copy of the PowerPoint presentation that framed the objectives and learning outcomes, click on Storyline for the Forum within the Summit.

The story of the Comox Valley Regional Team is the featured article in the Summer 2011 issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter. To download a copy of the article, click on Comox Valley Local Governments Showcase A Regional Response to Infrastructure Liability.

The Audience

“The Forum attracted close to 80 attendees,” continued Kim Stephens. “The audience comprised two groupings: those who are already members of the CAVI constituency in the local government setting; and those who were presumably curious because of the session title. In other words, it was a diverse group representing a spectrum of perspectives. The split between converted and curious was perhaps one-third and two-thirds.

“It was therefore necessary to bring the entire audience up to a common level of understanding about challenges in the local government setting. So, in the first half of the 3-hour session, the members of the presentation team weaved a seamless storyline. This then informed the sharing and learning in the town-hall part that followed after the refreshment break.”

Forum Objectives

“We had three objectives in convening the ‘Forum within the Summit’. First, CELEBRATE the collaboration that is happening in the Comox Valley. Secondly, and in building on what the Comox Valley has accomplished to date, START an Island-wide conversation about the ’20-80 Rule’ for infrastructure liability.

“Historically, we have not thought about or planned for replacement of aging infrastructure. Governments are now challenged to find the money to mitigate this liability.”

“The third objective was to paint the big picture for WATER SUSTAINABILITY on Vancouver Island. It is all about influencing choices by individuals and organizations. We use the term ‘sustainability’ as a lens for considering approaches that influence choices.”

Get It Right at the Front-End

“A key message is that we must get it right at the front-end of the land development process in order to achieve long-term sustainability, especially financial,” stated Judy Walker, planner with the Village of Cumberland. “Our Comox Valley learning process in working towards the goal of Sustainable Service Delivery set the scene for the town-hall sharing in the second part.Judy walker (120p) - village of cumberland

“We have learned that the change in approach starts with land use planning and recognizing that infrastructure and services can be provided sustainably, both fiscally and ecologically. Another key message is that everyone involved in land development has a role to play in achieving sustainable service delivery.

“The topic for the town-hall part was Sustainable Service Delivery Means Integrate Land Use Planning and Infrastructure Asset Management. Our goal was that attendees would leave with practical examples of collaboration and integration, and would be inspired to apply what they had learned to their own situations.”