Valuing Natural Assets

An innovative approach to valuing a community’s natural assets promises to reduce service delivery costs while increasing other public benefits, participants at a clinic heard Wednesday.

The infrastructure local governments rely on to deliver services to their citizens is typically expensive to install, expensive to maintain and very expensive to replace.

Some natural assets can help support sustainable service delivery while offering low installation costs, lower maintenance costs and—properly managed—never need replacement.

The Sunshine Coast community of Gibsons is the first of several local governments engaged with the Municipal Natural Asset Initiative, a project bringing together asset management, financial planning and ecological protection.

Councillor Jeremy Valeriote described how Gibsons is finding that their intact watershed, with its ponds, streams and deep aquifer, are immensely valuable as part of their drinking water and storm water management systems. Protecting the natural foreshore along their portion of the Salish Sea provides a natural barrier from the ocean, protecting homes and property.

As asset management increasingly becomes a requirement and local government practice, natural assets are being measured and considered in financial plans.

“Nature is under valued, under priced and over used,” said Town of Gibsons CAO Emanuel Machado. “It is reliable, cost effective, and energy efficient over the long-term asset lifecycle.”

Natural assets also provide myriad community benefits, such as habitat for wildlife and opportunities for beauty and recreation. Volunteers plant trees along the creek beds. The children of Gibsons are involved through summer camps and making public art celebrating the woodlands and the aquifer.

Roy Brooke of Brooke & Associates enumerated the diverse natural assets and challenges of the other communities now participating in Phase II of the Initiative. While Gibsons enjoys a very engaged and environmentally concerned population, these other communities “are not the usual suspects,” and include Grand Forks, Nanaimo, West Vancouver, and two communities near Toronto.

Time, funding and resources permitting, a further intake of communities for this Initiative is anticipated. Interested parties should contact Roy Brooke.

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