COMOX VALLEY 2020 SYMPOSIUM ON WATER STEWARDSHIP IN A CHANGING CLIMATE (postponed to October due to COVID 19 pandemic): An inter-regional perspective on why the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island is viewed as an incubator region in British Columbia for collaboration precedents (Announcement #1, November 2019)
“Our model as a conservation partnership is very unique in British Columbia,” states Tim Ennis, Executive Director, Comox Valley Conservation Partnership. “There are at least six other conservation partnerships, but to the best of my knowledge we are the only one that focuses on local government. The Comox Valley Conservation Partnership brings together 23 different local groups and associations in one common forum to work proactively with local governments.”
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
Debra Oakman served as Chief Administrative Officer of the Comox Valley Regional District from 2008 until mid-2017. Her early and strong support for demonstrating the benefits of the ‘regional team approach’ in the Comox Valley was instrumental in helping to lay the foundation for the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Education Initiative. Comprising 5 regions within the Georgia Basin, the IREI is a unique mechanism for sharing and learning among local governments; and for building understanding to implement a whole-system approach to land development.
FLASHBACK TO 2017: Climate Change, Nature’s Services & Thinking Like a Watershed—the Comox Valley Eco-Asset Symposium was an energizing moment; ripple effects included being the catalyst for an inter-regional conversation that resulted in the launch of the “Vancouver Island Symposia Series: Water Stewardship in a Changing Climate” in 2018
“The stewardship and conservation sector has traditionally focused on habitat restoration and protection of lands with high ecological values. With cumulative impacts from climate change, urban and resource development escalating, these groups have now become community leaders in educating and supporting improved land use practices,” stated David Stapley. “The Eco-Assets Symposium promoted measures that capture the value of ecological assets to address infrastructure and climate change issues by integrating them into land use planning and practice.”
FLASHBACK TO 2015: “A Guide to Water-Wise Land Development in the Comox Valley” – Joint Staff Training Workshop organized by the Comox Valley Regional Team initiated an educational process for communicating ‘design with nature’ expectations in urban watersheds
“The Water-Wise Guide is in essence both a call to action (for the community, but also for us) as well as a road map for that action,” said Nancy Gothard. “So, our goal was to begin to brand the story and to make it visible in the various regulatory agencies in the Valley. To depict visually that we were developing a consistency in expectations in how development would address environmental concerns. Having it available on every front counter and every website is a first step.”
FLASHBACK TO 2014: “We cannot look at individual municipal services in isolation. Asset management is about a much bigger Umvelt,” stated David Allen, City of Courtenay CAO, when the Comox Valley Regional Team hosted the 4th in the Georgia Basin Inter-Regional Collaboration Workshop Series
David Allen introduced the audience to the Umvelt concept, which is the German word for ‘environment’ or ‘surroundings’. “Although the surrounding environment is common to all, each organism experiences the environment in a different way. Applied to asset management, this means that the Umvelt is larger in scope than the triple bottom line. Asset management is a ‘systems thinking’ method applied to organization-wide problem solving ,” stated David Allen.
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
Comox Valley local governments are aligning efforts, building leadership capacity and striving for consistency. “We have moved beyond continuing education solely for the purpose of professional development. We are exploring what implementation of regional policy means on the ground,” stated Glenn Westendorp. “All those involved in land development have a role to play in achieving Sustainable Service Delivery. The players include land use and infrastructure professionals.”
FLASHBACK TO 2011: “The award recognizes those who are leading the way and demonstrating overall commitment to water sustainability,” stated Daisy Foster when the BC Water & Waste Association honoured the ‘Comox Valley Regional Team’ with the Leadership in Water Sustainability Award
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 the way ‘regional team approach’ resonated in the Comox Valley. “Leadership in water sustainability must be demonstrated in any or all of four areas that correspond to the four elements of the Water Sustainability Action Plan for British Columbia,” stated Daisy Foster, (former) BCWWA Executive Director.
FLASHBACK TO 2010: Moving from boundaries to commonalities — ‘Comox Valley Developers Dialogue’initiated a conversation with the development community about collaboration, alignment and consistency to achieve truly integrated water-centric planning
“The format was excellent for ‘stirring the pot’ as it allowed for a variety of ideas, questions and comments to flow easily and freely. The non-formal setting made everyone comfortable in sharing comments, whether positive or negative. This is certainly appreciated among the building and development community,” stated Kip Keylock, representing the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce. “It was very well noted that by simply outlining each groups’ needs could result in effectiveness and positive results… a huge step toward establishing a much needed synergy.”
FLASHBACK TO 2009: The key message for the 2009 Comox Valley Seminar Series, titled “Getting Ahead of the Wave”, was about the ‘call to courage’ in order to ‘move from boundaries to commonalities’, and implement ‘design with nature’ solutions on the ground through partnerships and collaboration
“The power of the 2009 Series resulted from the fact that it was internally driven by staff. As a result, the process of organizing the series and developing the curriculum enabled people in all four local governments to work together,” stated Judith Walker, Municipal Planner with Cumberland. “The research conclusions by Tim Pringle really struck home for me, in particular his finding that proponents of major development projects are much better resourced than local government. We are always in a position of having to react.”
FLASHBACK TO 2009: “It takes time for people to wrap their minds around a concept such as regional-based planning; and understand what it really means on the ground, and on a daily basis,” stated Jack Minard following release in 2008 of ‘Nature Without Borders: The Comox Valley Land Trust Regional Conservation Strategy’
“The Strategy aims to provide reliable and accessible conservation information to politicians, planners, developers, community groups and residents, and to assist in wise and informed land use decisions and conservation actions,” stated Jack Minard, (former) Executive Director of the Comox Valley Land Trust. “The desired outcome in developing the Strategy is to contribute to the quality of life of Comox Valley residents by working to protect the lands that are essential for ecosystem function, human health and well-being, economic sustainability, and civic pride.”