While the Regional District of Nanaimo awaits a report on taking over governance, Parksville mayor Chris Burger is stressing the importance of keeping the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Reserve.
“The biosphere designation separates us from everyone else in the province and we have a tremendous opportunity to promote it at an international level,” said Burger who also serves as the council liaison with the biosphere foundation.
The reserve, formed in 2000, is one of over 500 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) designated sites in the world, but one of only two in B.C.
It has struggled with governance issues for years and failed a periodic review in 2010 for “not meeting the statutory framework criteria.”
The board was given two years to enact an overall strategy and action plan or face losing the UN designation — which would be a first in Canada.
In response the biosphere board sent a formal request to the RDN in May to have them take over governance.
Burger said aside from losing the tremendous educational and promotional benefits of the designation it would be the “height of irony because the regional district is already undertaking a number of projects and is really on the leading edge.”
He highlights aspects such as the district’s nationally noted 70 per cent waste diversion from landfills, the drinking water protection area, the aquifer storage and recovery project being studied that would be among the first in the country, and the bio-energy facility in Nanaimo.
“We’re doing a lot of this stuff already, the regional district is known to be progressive, we just haven’t promoted it enough.”
Asked if it was an issue of the average resident getting more involved, Burger pointed out all the residents already are, through things like the reduction in landfill waste.
RDN staff will not comment on the issue until their report on governance options is presented to the RDN board, but Burger points out it would be an ideal solution in many ways.
He said since local governments are experts in governance and can set up structures that avoid the pitfalls of politics, environmental issues and advocacy the biosphere board got caught up in, against their mandate.
Burger said taking over the governance would only cost the RDN some extra staff time since they are doing a lot of that work already.