Island Trust policy statement review needs public input

Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

Wednesday, January 27 2021

The Islands Trust is amending its 26-year-old policy statement and the public can provide input via a survey, open until Feb. 5.

More than symbolic, the policy statement guides the Trust’s unique preserve and protect mandate and its vision filters down into the Trust Area’s 20 official community plans as well as bylaws, policies and regulations for each local trust committee.

“The purpose of the policy statement is to establish a vision for the future of the Islands Trust Area that reflects the values of residents of the Trust Area and of the province generally,” the current version reads. But given the long span since it was written, some needs and goals of are not reflected in the statement. Those areas are reconciliation and engagement with First Nations, Trust Council’s 2019 climate emergency declaration, an aging population, the rising price of land, an increase in cargo ship traffic in the Trust Area and changes in technology.

Last amended in 2002, the current statement describes the roles of different parties in decision-making including Trust Council, local trust committees, First Nations and residents, and discusses Trust Council’s vision for the future of the Trust Area, which is broken down into three sections: ecosystem preservation and protection, stewardship of resources and sustainable communities.

“The [Islands Trust policy statement] directives establish a litmus test of a land use bylaw’s consistency with the Trust mandate,” said Kees Langereis, trustee for Gabriola Island Local Trust Committee.

“From my perspective,” he continued, “planning decisions should protect the inherent beauty of rural landscapes and seascapes and foster healthy ecosystems. Moreover, a healthy ecosystem is a fundamental underpinning of a healthy community. And within that prevailing framework, we need to come up with possible solutions to address community needs. How local trust committees achieve all this requires input from all.”

The online survey marks the second round of public input. In fall 2019, a public engagement process asked islanders to provide feedback on values, climate change concerns and opportunities to preserve and protect the Trust Area. Of the 100 responses received from the Gabriola Local Trust Area, the most common theme highlighted by those participants under values was a connection to nature, and the highest concern related to climate change was ecosystem change.

Following the next round of public input and ongoing engagement with First Nations, staff will draft a policy statement bylaw. 

Another round of public input will be sought after Trust Council has accepted the draft bylaw. 

The survey is available on the Islands Trust website, www.islandstrust.bc.ca (search for Islands 2050).