Natural Asset Management - Town of Gibsons

Nature is our most valuable infrastructure asset.


What are Natural Assets?

Put simply, Natural Assets are natural resources or ecosystems that provide municipal services, instead of using costly infrastructure to do the same job. 

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.

In the Town of Gibsons, natural assets play an essential role in our infrastructure system. Our foreshore area provides protection from storm surges and sea level rise. Our creeks, ditches and wetlands help us effectively manage stormwater. And a naturally occurring aquifer located beneath Gibsons stores and filters drinking water so pure it meets health standards without chemical treatment. 

Here is an example of a natural asset in action: 

Storm Water Ponds: These naturally occurring ponds are used by the Town of Gibsons to convey and treat stormwater (rainwater) run-off. Water collects in these ponds at White Tower Park where it is cleaned and filtered before it flows out into the ocean.  

If these creeks and ponds stopped performing their current functions, flooding could occur and either development in Upper Gibsons would have to slow or stop, or engineered infrastructure would need to be constructed (at an estimated cost of $4 million) and maintained. 

Town of Gibsons Natural Asset Management Projects:

What is Natural Asset Management? 

Natural Asset Management is the use of natural resources or ecosystems to provide municipal services. Not only does it save municipalities money, but encourages sustainability and investment in our environment.

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.

Natural Asset Management Strategy 

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.

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.

View the Town of Gibsons’ Advancing Municipal Natural Asset Management Report 

Our objectives in considering natural assets are to:

  1. Manage risk by ensuring we understand exactly what civil services we receive from natural assets;
  2. Reduce costs by managing natural assets so they can provide services at a lower cost and in perpetuity;
  3. Maintain healthy ecosystems as a result of sound asset management strategies; and
  4. 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

Learn more about Natural Asset Management in about two minutes: MNAI Land Awards Video, October 2018