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South Okanagan conservation fund finds new life with director's motion

April 30, 2016 - 2:30 PM

PENTICTON - Efforts by a South Okanagan environmental group to establish a conservation fund has taken a step forward with approval from a Regional District committee.

A recommendation by West Bench director Michael Brydon to have the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen establish a sub-regional conservation fund was carried by the committee.

The motion followed a presentation by South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program program manager Bryn White and Kootenay Conservation program manager David Hillary. They described a similar conservation fund set up in the Kootenays.

The recommendation includes a requisition averaging $10 per household, with an option to renew the fund every five years.

The fund would apply only to electoral and municipal members in the Okanagan, at least initially, where Brydon said public appetite for the conservation measure was strongest.

The fund provides an opportunity to leverage further funding to go towards projects of environmental value.

Investment decisions will be based on recommendations from a Technical Advisory Committee, and public approval for the service will come from the Alternate Approval Process and a referendum, if required.

The $10 tax requisition is expected to generate around $500,000 annually, Brydon said.

The move comes after demand for the fund appeared to have weakened following the board’s decision during budget talks not to fund a budget line item for a stand-alone referendum on the fund in 2016.

White conducted a series of public engagement sessions through 2015 to January 2016 with Okanagan electoral areas and initiated formal consultation with member municipalities, garnering support from all the electoral area advisory planning councils to continue to explore the conservation concept.

White approached the City of Penticton in October 2015. The city agreed to discuss the fund with the regional district but said there would be no tax requisition for it prior to 2017.

In making his recommendation, Brydon said he was aware of a public appetite for the fund.

“If we’re wrong people will tell us we’re wrong, and we’ll address it,” he said.


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