Nature is our most valuable infrastructure asset.
WHAT ARE NATURAL ASSETS?
We often think of our infrastructure assets as being those we have constructed (e.g. roads, sewers, engineered reservoirs). However, there is another entire ecosystem of assets, including our soil, air, water, flora and fauna, which also deliver valuable goods (such as timber, fish and solar energy) and essential civil services (such as erosion control, air purification and drinking water) to our communities. These are known as natural assets.
GIBSONS’ NATURAL ASSETS
Gibsons is blessed with many natural assets, which form a fundamental part of the Town’s infrastructure. The Gibsons Aquifer, for example, provides water storage and filtration, while delivering drinking water so pure it meets health standards without any chemical treatment. Our creeks and woodlands help manage our rainwater. And the foreshore area of our beaches acts as a natural seawall.
WHAT IS NATURAL ASSET MANAGEMENT?
Across Canada, municipal infrastructure is aging, while replacement costs are going up. To help manage this situation, many local governments are adopting a comprehensive asset management strategy, which is a systematic process for making strategic and operational decisions about municipal assets over their entire lifecycle. An important feature of this process is having financial plans in place to ensure that assets are maintained, repaired and replaced at appropriate times.
At the Town of Gibsons, we strongly believe asset management plans should include both engineered and natural assets, wherever these provide civil services on which the Town relies.
Natural assets provide clear advantages over engineered infrastructure, as they:
- may provide “free” ecosystem services;
- are cheaper to operate and maintain, if not degraded;
- do not depreciate if properly managed; and
- are carbon neutral or even carbon positive.
Accordingly, we are pioneering a natural asset management strategy and have developed many helpful resources, with the ultimate goal of developing a step-by-step natural asset management strategy that municipalities across North America, and around the world, can easily adopt.
Our objectives in considering natural assets are to:
- Manage risk by ensuring we understand exactly what civil services we receive from natural assets;
- Reduce costs by managing natural assets so they can provide services at a lower cost and in perpetuity;
- Maintain healthy ecosystems as a result of sound asset management strategies; and
- Manage the asset effectively to provide civil services for future development by employing (rather than degrading) natural assets that may exist on site.
To see an example of how the Town is investing in the protection and enhancement of a local natural asset, watch this short video: E Machado at White Tower Park April 2016 1:31