Underused Agricultural Land Reserve study questioned by advisory committee

photo by Audrey McKinnon

While Surrey is the greenest major city in Canada in terms of its urban wildlife corridor that beats any other in the country and 7,800 acres of parks and wildlife areas, the city’s Agricultural Land Reserve isn’t necessarily being used to its full potential, according to the study.

Mayor Dianne Watts said on the city website “Since I have been Mayor, not a single acre of land has been removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve for residential, commercial or industrial development and 35% of Surrey’s land base remains agricultural.”

But the study says it takes more than just holding land to make the most of good soil and, it says, Surrey can do better.

But this isn’t a new problem according to one familiar character. Back in 2009, a paper by UBC’s Patrick Condon and Kwantlen’s Kent Mullinix called Agriculture on the Edge, said pretty much the same thing.

The paper said the ALR had largely been abandoned for agricultural purposes, threatening the goal of a semblance of regional food security. The problem three years ago, according to Condon and Mullinix, was that land was too small to be cultivated on an industrial scale or that it was being held on speculation.

But, with Mullinix still heading the Kwantlen research team, the AFSA Committee questioned if the study really adds anything of merit to the discussion.

Kathleen Zimmerman pointed out discrepancies about the study at the meeting.

Councillor Linda Hepner, chair of the AFSA Committee, said the numbers in the study were skewed.

The committee criticized that the study team used maps from 2004 to evaluate the use of the ALR and that, while the study said certain farmlands weren’t in use, the land is being used and that can be proven just by dropping by and seeing it for yourself.

That being said, the research team apparently visited the sites to gather the information in the first place.

The study was headed off on Mayor Watts’ and Surrey’s Senior Management Team’s request that Kwantlen and the ISH look into how Surrey can better use their ALR for agriculture.

Now it looks like the work done won’t hold much water in council. Council seems to be saying they’re already doing all the positive things advised in the study and the negative points are lacking a strong backing.

The study itself can be seen here: http://www.kwantlen.ca/__shared/assets/Surrey_s_Underutilized_ALR_Lands23391.pdf

So, is the city already doing what it can?

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