The Regional District of Nanaimo heard a plea from a director of the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Foundation to take over the board’s responsibilities — but it’s not likely to happen.
Speaking at Tuesday night’s committee of the whole meeting, Karen Hunter urged RDN directors to take over responsibility for the biosphere, saying the current structure had failed.
“The foundation has not been successful because the governance structure has failed,” she said, noting that the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Reserve risks being de-listed by UNESCO in 2013 because of that failure. She also said the group risks having an outside body take control of the group’s mandate.
Both of these problems, she said, could be resolved by the RDN taking control of the mandate.
“The RDN could provide its governance expertise to establish the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Committee,” she said. “This could see individuals appointed with terms of reference, a volunteer working committee with minimal RDN staffing and funds available from the foundation to kick start the committee.”
Doing this, she said, could provide some very real benefits to the RDN, as well as to the biosphere.
“The committee could do research to assist with RDN programs, build national and international relationships, leverage funds through partners and do things like develop an awards program for sustainability initiatives in the region,” she said. “The RDN can use the biosphere reserve designation to highlight its work regionally, nationally and internationally.”
Acknowledging there have been problems with the group, she said it’s time to leave the past behind and move forward to enhance the reserve.
The RDN board went in camera to discuss the issue, as it involved potentially significant financial implications.
She said the Regional District of Nanaimo already carries out some of the mandate of the biosphere foundation but receives no recognition for doing so. Forming the committee within the RDN, she suggested, would give that deserved recognition.
However, board chair Joe Stanhope said Wednesday the RDN opted not to form such a committee, but rather, to help the group in other ways.
“Basically, what we are going to do is assist them in developing terms of reference to provide a restructured governance model and send corespondance to UNESCO articulating the accomplishments to date within the Mt. Arrowsmith biosphere reserve by the RDN,” Stanhope said. “We have been doing some neat things and we are probably in a leadership position among regional districts in B.C. and we are among some of the best in North America in terms of our solid waste diversion program.”
Stanhope said the board declined to set up a committee to take over the running of the reserve because doing so could cost as much as $150,000 per year, which would require voter assent.
“That cost could then escalate,” he said.