ISSUE 9 - May 2007
Keeping in touch
The first half of my three-year-term as your Area Director is completed, and I am proud of the many accomplishments of the Regional District of Nanaimo Board since November, 2005. Perhaps the most significant of these achievements is the Board’s commitment to regional sustainability. Climate change is a reality, and as a Regional Board we have learned that if we are to keep our region healthy we need to modify the way we do things. With this in mind, the Board is reviewing its Regional Growth Strategy.
In late 2006, the Board approved an extensive report produced by the RDN Regional Growth Management Advisory Committee. Prospering Today, Protecting Tomorrow: The State of Sustainability of the Regional District of Nanaimo is an in-depth look at the steps we need to take to maintain and improve the economic, social and environmental health of the RDN and its residents. The report recognizes that we are all part of an ecosystem, and our economic and social lives should be integrated into the environment in ways that enhance it rather than degrading or damaging it. Members of RGMAC are continuing their work towards sustainability—a recent community workshop provided them with plenty of ideas about how we can achieve our goals. The RDN Board looks forward to the next instalment of their work.
The RDN Board also approved a Sustainable Community Builder Checklist in 2006. The purpose of this checklist is to help builders and developers to voluntarily start thinking about sustainability, and as a result, to make environmentally-conscious choices when planning for development. So far in 2007, the RDN Board has approved a Green Building Action Plan, a Corporate Climate Change Plan, and the hiring of a Sustainability Coordinator in the Fall of 2007. The individual who fills this new position will help the RDN Board and staff to manage the various policies, planning and programs we have adopted to support sustainability.
For the remainder of my term as your Area Director, I will continue to work with the RDN Board to improve regional sustainability, and to represent the interests of our community. I thank you for your continued support. I also thank you for the questions and comments I regularly receive, as this information helps me to be more effective in representing you at the regional table.
Dave Bartram, Director
Electoral Area H
Spider Lake Fire Protection
The Province has granted the Regional District of Nanaimo preliminary approval for a Free Crown Grant for property located at Spider Lake. If the grant is officially approved, the RDN will be able to build a new fire hall on the site to improve fire protection for residents. The closest fire department to Spider Lake is currently the Bow Horn Bay Volunteer Fire Department, so a new fire hall at Spider Lake will bring peace of mind for residents, and will be a great help in terms of mutual aid.
The RDN submitted this Free Crown Grant application in mid-2006. Local governments must make special application for Free Crown Grants, and the grants require sponsorship from the Ministry of Community Services. Now that the Ministry has approved the RDN’s application for use of the Crown land parcel, the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands are reviewing the application and these Ministries will decide whether or not to grant final approval. If the grant is approved, construction on the Spider Lake Fire Hall will begin immediately.
Take Care During Fire Season
Our local Volunteer Fire Departments are important community service groups, and we are extremely fortunate to have volunteer firefighters ready to tackle dangerous situations on a moment’s notice. Fire Department members are our friends and neighbours, and we need to assist them as much as possible with the job that they do for us. As the summer fire season approaches, please take some time to assess your level of risk and, where necessary, make changes around your home and property to reduce that risk.
Some simple steps you can take to protect your property include maintaining your chimney, keeping propane tanks and other fuel at least 10 metres from your home or other buildings on your property, and making sure that the entrance to your property is clear so that emergency vehicles will have access if need be. Also, it is a good idea to prepare an emergency fire and evacuation plan and review it with your family.
The Home Owner’s Fire Smart Manual put out by the Ministry of Forests and Range (Protection Branch) is full of tips to help you reduce your risk of fire. A link to this manual is provided at www.rdn.bc.ca under the Emergency Planning section.
Residential Food Waste Diversion
The RDN is embarking on a residential food waste diversion pilot project. If successful, this pilot will be expanded and will become a regular part of our waste diversion system, allowing the region to further decrease the percentage of waste that we send to the landfill. In order to complete this pilot, the RDN Board has decided to extend its five-year garbage and recycling collection contract with Waste Services Incorporated (WSI), which would have expired on March 31, 2007. The contract is extended for one more year, so that food waste diversion can be included in the next tender if our pilot project is successful.
Food waste diversion is an exciting concept, and an important part of improving our regional sustainability. The RDN has already moved into this territory by starting a successful food waste diversion program in businesses throughout the region. When we reduce the amount of waste that goes into the landfill or other disposal sites, we save resources and minimize our footprint on the environment. Getting residential organic materials out of the garbage and to a composting facility will extend the life of our landfill, and for every tonne of food waste we divert, we will be able to achieve nearly an equal reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
In 2002, the RDN adopted the Zero Waste diversion target as its long-term goal. By 2003, we were diverting 57 per cent of our solid waste from the landfill. That was more than the 50 per cent target set in 1989 by the provincial environment ministry for all regional districts, but there is still room for improvement. The updated Solid Waste Management Plan aims to increase this diversion rate to 75 per cent by 2010 by diverting organic materials away from landfill.
It is important for residents to know that the conclusion of the original WSI waste collection contract will mean an end to twice-yearly special collection days for large household items for the approximately 23,000 households serviced by WSI. Under the previous WSI contract, special collection days cost the RDN $30,000 per year. Continuing this service beyond March 31, 2007 would have cost RDN taxpayers $94,500, a net increase of $64,500.
After discussing this issue at length, the RDN Board has decided that our core garbage and recycling program is the best way to serve the region, as it allows residents to dispose of one can of garbage per week and permits the recycling of much household material. Given that less than five per cent of RDN customers make use of special collection days, we feel that it is unfair to expect all residents to pay for the cost of continuing this service.
The Regional Landfill accepts waste items that are not covered by the core WSI service at minimal cost. Large item disposal options are also outlined in the spring 2007 Zero Waste newsletter that was recently delivered to all RDN garbage and recycling collection customers. For more information, visit www.rdn.bc.ca or call the RDN Environmental Services Department at 390-6560 or 954-3792.
Drinking Water Watershed Protection Stewardship Committee
Residents who are concerned about drinking water quality and quantity will be interested to know that the Regional District of Nanaimo has a Drinking Water Watershed Protection Stewardship Committee that guides the RDN in carrying out its 2004 Drinking Water Protection Action Plan. This important committee is made up of RDN Board members and staff, Provincial government and Vancouver Island Health Authority representatives, community stakeholders, and RDN residents. There is broad community representation from all areas of the RDN (excluding municipalities); members are representatives of the RDN as a whole rather than representatives of designated Electoral Areas. In cases where water-related topics are beyond the scope of the RDN’s authority, the committee works with the Province and with the Vancouver Island Health Authority to address these issues.
More information about drinking water protection is available at www.rdn.bc.ca or from the RDN Environmental Services Department.