Editorial: Changes to land reserve step in right direction

First off, the ALR will be reunited into one.

The B.C. government announced this week that it is making changes to the Agricultural Land Reserve, and we think it’s a move in the right direction.

First off, the ALR will be reunited into one. In 2014 the previous Liberal government split the ALR into two zones. Zone 1 included the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan. Rules for the land reserve in this zone, which included the Cowichan Valley, didn’t change. The rest of the province now fell into Zone 2, and that was a different story, with Cowichan farmers at least voicing their displeasure over the new rules.

Prior to 2014 the Agricultural Land Commission, which holds sway over the Reserve, had been tasked with making decisions about agricultural land with farming as the only priority. Under the new rules, in Zone 2, the ALC panels were could now consider urban and industrial development.

The late Bob Crawford, who in 2014 was the president of the Cowichan Agricultural Society, called it a “wedge”, designed to open up more farmland to development.

The new legislation introduced this week will also limit the size of homes that can be built on agricultural land, something that has become a real problem on the lower mainland, where mega-mansions have started to crop up on some of the province’s best farmland. With a 5,400 square foot limit on home size we hope those uninterested in farming will look elsewhere for property.

The government is also cracking down on dumping of construction waste, toxic waste and other fill on ALR land, which can do permanent damage.

This is all vital. Without the ALR we would have little farmland left. When the ALR was formed between 1974 and 1976, nearly 6,000 hectares of prime agricultural land were being lost each year to urban and other uses.

It’s not perfect. We are still uncomfortably at the mercy of world food exporters, but without the ability to grow at least some of our own food, thanks to the foresight of those who formed the ALR, we’d be in an even worse position.

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