Councillor tackles Central Saancih’s Agricultural Area Plan

Survey of residents showed one of the two top priorities of Central Saanich residents was agriculture and environmental issues.

Central Saanich Councillor Alicia Holman says increased interest in local agriculture means the District should be putting more resources towards it.

Central Saanich Councillor Alicia Holman has been working hard to get the Agricultural Area Plan on the District’s overall strategic plan.

“In my three years on council, we’ve not had that on our strategic priority and so I’ve advocated … that we put agriculture on our priorities (list),” she told the PNR in a recent phone interview.

From Holman’s understanding, in 2008 the municipality invested in an Agricultural Area Plan which resulted in a temporary committee. By 2011, the municipality had created an Agricultural Area Advisory Committee on a temporary basis that looked at a consultant report. Holman said there were close to 100 items the municipality could consider doing to further agriculture.

The committee later identified priorities, and the plan was endorsed by council in 2011.

Following a recent survey of residents, results showed that one of the two top priorities in the minds of Central Saanich residents was agriculture and environmental issues.

“So I saw that as an opportunity to bring forward again in a public meeting these motions” Holman said. “The intent was to ask council to put the Agricultural Area Plan on our strategic priorities for the balance of our term.”

She added that it’s a big part of their municipality and a big part of the Regional Sustainability Strategy.

The Capital Regional District (CRD) is going to be moving forward with an agricultural or a local food strategy, she noted, adding she really wants Central Saanich to be a major player in that. She said she wants Central Saanich to provide more leadership to help the agricultural industry thrive in terms of value added opportunities, local food production, and agri-tourism.

At Monday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting, it was decided that the Agricultural Area Plan would be put on council’s next strategic planning session in either December or January. That decision must still be ratified at a regular meeting of council.

“We look at the plan and then we evaluate it six months later, so we’ve just had an evaluation of it … so it won’t be until the end of the year,” said Holman.

Holman has also hoped council would approve her idea of allocating one per cent of budget revenues— around $150,000 annually — for the balance of the term to put towards the agriculture plan.

Council did not support that.

“The other thing of concern is the Agricultural Area Advisory Committee,” she said, “We adopted (that) over a year ago (and made) a commitment to make that an ongoing committee, and it’s yet to be struck.”

Holman said she is motivated by the current interest in agriculture in the community and sees this as an opportunity to really ask council to take action.