REGIONAL TEAM APPROACH IS FOUNDED ON PARTNERSHIPS AND COLLABORATION: “The Comox Valley regional team was ahead of the curve when, in 2011, we turned our minds to tackling the challenge of articulating a regional response to infrastructure liability,” stated Derek Richmond in his 2017 presentation to the Comox Valley Regional Board, and honouring the contribution of CAO Debra Oakman

Note to Reader:

In 2008 Debra Oakman became the first Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the Comox Valley Regional District (CVRD) when it was created as a result of splitting the Comox Strathcona Regional District into two entities. She retired in mid-2017.

In October 2017, the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia honoured Debra Oakman with a Lifetime Membership in the Partnership. The presentation was made by Derek Richmond and Kim Stephens, representing the Partnership, at the start of a meeting of the CVRD Board. His presentation to the Regional Board provided Derek Richmond with the opportunity to reflect on milestones in the evolution of a ‘regional team  approach’ in the Comox Valley.

Derek Richmond (Director & CAVI Past-Chair) and Kim Stephens (Executive Director) co-presented a framed copy of the “letter of recognition” attesting to Debra’s Lifetime Membership in the Partnership.

Communicate, Cooperate, Coordinate, Collaborate

“Debra Oakman’s involvement with the work of the Partnership for Water Sustainability dates back to 2008 when the regional district was created in its current form. Over the years, Debra has provided the Partnership with her insight and suggestions at key decision points,” stated Derek Richmond, a Partnership Director who is resident in the Comox Valley.

Derek Richmond is a former Manager of Engineering with the City of Courtenay. He was Chair of the CAVI-Convening for Action on Vancouver Island initiative during the period 2011-2016.

Inter-Regional Collaboration within the Georgia Basin

“The Partnership presented Debra with a Lifetime Membership in order to honour her, and draw attention to her high-level contribution to the success of the Water Sustainability Action Plan in general and the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative (IREI) in particular. Both are guided by the 4Cs – communicate, cooperate, coordinate, collaborate,” continued Derek Richmond.

“Perhaps, most importantly, Debra Oakman was instrumental in helping to lay the foundation for the IREI, a unique mechanism for sharing and learning among local governments; and for building understanding to implement a whole-system, water balance approach. CVRD was the sponsor regional district when the IREI was launched by the Partnership for Water Sustainability, five regional districts and the provincial government in 2012.

“This recognition of Debra Oakman goes beyond an individual to also recognize the achievements and efforts of municipalities, singularly and collectively in the Comox Valley, whose collaborative and cooperative approach to water sustainability resulted in a number of successful initiatives. These demonstrated what could be achieved through collaboration and a regional team approach.”

Evolution of the Regional Team Approach in the Comox Valley

Derek Richmond provided the CVRD Board with an overview of the building blocks in the evolution of a ‘regional team approach’ in the Comox Valley.

“The regional team approach is founded on partnerships and collaboration; and seeks to align actions at three scales – provincial, regional and local. The term ‘regional approach’ has been part our vocabulary for a generation or more, but it has never resonated in the way that ‘regional team approach’ resonated in the Comox Valley,” stated Derek Richmond.

“The four local governments in the Comox Valley embraced a ‘regional team approach’ when a convergence of interests created an opportunity for all the players to set their sights on the common good, challenge the old barriers of jurisdictional interests, and make water sustainability real.

“In 2009, the Comox Valley Land Trust became part of the Comox Valley-CAVI Regional Team. The context for our collaboration was the Comox Valley Regional Growth Strategy. In subsequent years, TimberWest and the Ministry of Highways joined the Comox Valley-CAVI table.”

Moving from Awareness to Action

“Looking back, the genesis for inter-governmental collaboration within the Comox Valley was our participation in the inaugural Showcasing Green Infrastructure on Vancouver Island: The 2007 Series. CVRD and the City of Courtenay co-hosted the Comox Valley showcasing day,” continued Derek Richmond.

“Commencing in 2008, the Comox Valley was the provincial demonstration region for showing what a regional team approach likes like. The backdrop for an annual program of learning lunch seminars were the targets and commitments in Living Water Smart, released by the provincial government in 2008.

“During the period 2008 through 2011, the annual Comox Valley Learning Lunch Seminar Series were open to all. Beginning in 2012, however, the process was an internal one. The goal was to move from awareness to action. An outcome was A Guide to  Water-Wise Development in the Comox Valley. The 2012 Series contributed to the ‘proof of approach’ for the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative.

Asset Management for Sustainable Service Delivery

“In 2011, the Comox Valley-CAVI regional team was ahead of the curve when we turned our minds to the challenge of a regional response to infrastructure liability,” emphasized Derek Richmond.

“Notably, at the 2011 State of the Island Economic Summit organized by the Vancouver Economic Alliance, the ‘CAVI forum within the summit’ showcased how the Comox Valley-CAVI Regional Team was approaching the ‘infrastructure liability’ challenge confronting all local governments. The summit goal was to start an Island-wide conversation about getting it right at the front-end of the land development process in order to achieve long-term sustainability, especially financial.

“When one reflects on how understanding of how the goal of Assessment Management for Sustainable Service Delivery: A BC Framework  has evolved in British Columbia, it is evident that the Comox Valley has played an important and significant role as a catalyst for action.”

Derek Richmond, at the podium, speaking to the CVRD Board