Council approves plan for Nanaimo’s future

Five months of public consultation wrapped up in progressive 20-page strategic plan.

The waterfront is one of six priorities identified in the new strategic plan

The waterfront is one of six priorities identified in the new strategic plan

Nanaimo’s future is sitting in a 20-page binder.

After five months of interviews with citizens, community leaders, youth and senior citizens, as well as hundreds of hours of council and staff consideration, the document that will guide Nanaimo’s priorities for the next 15 years was unanimously approved Monday.

Two councillors, George Anderson and Bill Bestwick, considered the official corporate strategic plan important enough they voted by teleconference from their vacations in Italy and Hawaii, respectively.

Anderson set an early alarm clock – 3 a.m. Italian time – to vote in favour.

Your Voice, Our Nanaimo is the result of more than 500 workshop and interview participants, 370 survey respondents and more than 3,500 hits on the steering committee’s strategic planning blog.

The goal is to get city council, staff and residents moving in the same direction to establish Nanaimo as a premier municipality to work, live and play.

The plan’s function is to guide council in its four determined pillars of sustainability: social equity, environmental responsibility, economic health and cultural vitality. By identifying those pillars, council and staff will then determine future budgets to ensure the priorities are met.

Ken Balmer, spokesman for Rethink (West) Inc., a consulting company that assisted the strategic planning steering committee, said everything in the plan is community-driven.

“This wasn’t a question of drawing something up and sending it out for comment,” he said. “This was a question of finding out what people wanted, what they wanted council to focus on, and the draft followed all of that debate.”

The final product cost taxpayers $121,000 and is the first of its kind in Nanaimo.

While the strategic plan is designed to carry priorities on to 2025, short-term priorities were also identified during the process.

Immediate priorities include waterfront enhancement, water, transportation and mobility, asset management, community building partnerships and responsibility through local government.

Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan said the final draft had strong public support.

“In recent surveys, over 80 per cent of the participants recommended that council adopt this plan,” said Ruttan, adding the city will continue to consult with its residents to make Nanaimo one of British Columbia’s most successful cities.

Though Your Voice, Our Nanaimo is only 20 pages, hundreds of pages from interviews, e-mails, suggestions, survey answers and other information will be retained in another binder for future reference.

Coun. Fred Pattje said he believed voting in favour of the strategic plan is one of the most important votes he would cast as a Nanaimo councillor.

“I believe much has been achieved in the past five months,” he said. “Not only does this plan provide us with a distinct focus as to what we should be concentrating on, it also provides this council and staff with an opportunity to cooperate as we have never before.”

Pattje added that the first challenge of implementing the document into action will be at budget time, when council and staff will be forced to “put the financial meat on the skeleton.”

Resident Robert Fuller implored council that despite the laudable attributes the strategic plan addresses, that it not contribute to increasing property tax rates to implement the priorities.

Coun. Jim Kipp, chairman of the strategic plan steering committee, said council still has the authority to consider the expense of any project.

“We have the ability to say, ‘no, we can’t move forward on that’,” said Kipp. “If we feel it’s too costly or bad timing, we can remove it. That’s built into the plan.”

Anderson said he felt the waterfront is the city’s greatest asset and it should be used to its full potential.

“To me, the waterfront is not something that we capitalize enough on,” he said. “It’s something we should be using to attract more people to our downtown and to encourage a healthier community.”

The entire document can be viewed at www.nanaimo.ca.

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com

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