The Victoria-Esquimalt Harbour Society has followed the Official Community Plan process with expectations of the recognition and protection of the economic vitality of the Victoria harbour. The society has participated directly as a stakeholder having three sessions with OCP planners providing direct input into the process. Unfortunately our concerns have not been addressed in the current draft plan.
The Victoria harbour is the lifeblood of this city. Marine related activities account for over $1 billion in economic activity and are integrally linked to all other economic sectors. It is safe to say that without the harbour, this city (and region) may not exist.
The current draft OCP recognizes the existence of the harbour as an element making up a portion of the city. The word harbour appears 66 times in the plan which contains generic statements to describe harbour planning including working harbour, encourage a mix of uses, maintain and update the harbour plan, and implement the harbour pathway. Within the plan the harbour continues to be treated in a fragmented manner with no protection for the unique connection between water and land.
The city is currently embarking not only upon a new Official Community Plan, but also an economic plan. The aims of the economic plan are to add jobs, increase diversity, strengthen the base sectors, and retain existing employment in ship repair and related industries. To achieve these aims the economic sustainability and functionality of the harbour must be protected.
The VEHS submits that the city add an overriding concept to the Urban Place Guidelines that state that any potential use or change to harbour-adjacent land require commercial access to the water. Additionally, the harbour must be planned and managed as a holistic resource. Harbour planning needs its own section in the OCP where city policies are articulated and the resource is managed in a unified approach.
It’s not too late. The city has a real opportunity to put a plan in place that will see the harbour continue to grow as one of the most distinct and important elements of Victoria. The risks of not acting now cannot be understated. Once the economic link between water and land is gone, it is gone forever.
The VEHS hopes the city will realize the importance of this issue and act quickly on our recommendations. We are available at any time for consultation.
Victoria-Esquimalt Harbour Society