North Pender Tips Scales to Environment
[Rachel's Introduction: North Pender Island, B.C., has adopted an official community plan based on the "precautionary principle," meaning that when there are threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures will be taken even if the science is not fully established.]
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By Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist
The fragile balance between the environment and human activity is likely to tip in favour of the environment on North Pender Island [British Columbia].

The new official community plan is based on the "precautionary principle," meaning that when there are threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures will be taken even if the science is not fully established.

"This OCP is groundbreaking in many ways and will likely be used as a template for other island communities," said Gisele Rudischer, chairwoman of the Local Trust Committee.

The plan, which includes measures to protect sensitive ecosystems and new policies to protect the island's water supply, came together after Islands Trust representatives heard from the community at more than 40 meetings over three years and looked at recommendations from 11 focus groups.

"We found there were recurring themes," said local trustee Gary Steeves. "This new OCP reflects what the community told us -- that we need a more enlightened, progressive approach to planning."

Key issues addressed in the plan are the importance of biodiversity, a zero-exclusion policy to protect Agricultural Land Reserve farmland, a policy of working with developers to ensure any development retains natural areas and that environmental impact is limited, recognition of the need to maintain a diverse community and the need to address climate-change issues such as dependence on vehicles.

"We've also retained an environmental planner to help with a public education program for landowners and the development community on how to mitigate impacts in these rare remaining fragments of intact natural areas," said trustee Ken Hancock.

The committee has appointed two new public advisory committees to make recommendations on transportation and affordable housing.

The aim is to create a better transportation plan and to ensure North Pender remains a place where people of varying ages, incomes and abilities can find a home, trustees said.

Copyright Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008