Gibsons’ Natural Asset Management Journey

The wetlands in White Tower Park act as a natural stormwater management system.

The Town of Gibsons was North America’s first community to experiment with strategies to integrate natural assets into asset management and financial planning. Here is a brief overview of our journey:

2009 to 2013: As part of its long-term plan to protect its most important natural asset, the Gibsons Aquifer, the Town of Gibsons commissions an Aquifer-Mapping-Report. This comprehensive report greatly expands the community’s understanding of aquifer boundaries, hydraulic properties, and recharge and discharge to and from the aquifer. As a result, current and future stakeholders are better able to understand how their decisions may affect the aquifer.

2014: Gibsons becomes the first municipality in North America – and possibly in the world – to pass a municipal asset management policy that:

  1. Explicitly defines and recognizes natural assets as an asset class; and
  2. Creates specific obligations to operate, maintain and replace natural assets alongside traditional capital assets. These obligations include having well-defined natural asset management strategies in place, as well as the financial resources to maintain them.

In doing so, Gibsons moves natural assets from the periphery of municipal decision-making to its core and, together with its natural asset policy, provides a framework for the Town’s future asset management actions.

2014: After much discussion, our financial auditors agree to include a note acknowledging the importance of Gibson’s natural assets in its annual financial statements. Read the Auditors Note.

2015: Gibsons’ Committee-of-the-Whole endorses the Town’s official Eco-Asset Strategy, which documents the pioneering approach being undertaken to place nature, and the municipal services that it provides, at the core of our municipal infrastructure system.

2016: The Town of Gibsons becomes a founding member of the Municipal Natural Asset Initiative (MNAI). The MNAI team provides scientific, economic and municipal expertise to support and guide local governments in identifying, valuing and accounting for natural assets in their financial planning and asset management programs, and in developing leading-edge, sustainable and climate resilient infrastructure.

2018: Advancing Municipal Natural Asset Management: The Town of Gibsons’ experience in financial planning & reporting is produced and released by the Town of Gibsons, in partnership with the Municipal Natural Asset Initiative. Our hope is that this document helps drive a broader conversion to natural asset management in the municipal finance community and, ultimately, to the creation of a recognized accounting standard that communities can use for the valuation of their assets.

Roy Brooke (MNAI), Emanuel Machado (Town of Gibsons) and Stephanie Cairns (Smart Prosperity Institute) accept award at the 2018 Land Awards.

2018: The Town of Gibsons and its co-partners in the Municipal Natural Asset Initiative are declared winners of the Land Use and Conservation category at the Real Estate Foundation of BC’s prestigious Land Awards. The Land Awards celebrate “big ideas and bold leadership in land use, sustainability and real estate…and recognize projects that understand smart land use decisions lead to better possibilities for the future.”

2019: The Town of Gibsons wins “Award for Government Leadership in Sustainable Infrastructure, Western Region” for its Natural Asset Management Plan at the Awards for Civil Engineering Excellence (ACE). ACE is hosted by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering.

2020: In July 2020, the Town of Gibsons announced that it had been awarded a total of $955,000 by the Province of BC ($382,000) and the Government of Canada ($573,000) to construct an additional storm water pond at White Tower Park. The expansion will enable the stormwater ponds to service 47.7 hectares of land, and help address long-term erosion and water quality impacts of past development on Charman Creek. It will also add to the Town’s outdoor recreational space, as the site will be fully landscaped with native plant species and include walking trails, split rail fencing, flora and information signage.