'Land use planning is the key'

Create a land use plan, INAC guru urges


Nunavut must create land use plans for all Nunavut regions as an essential step towards fixing the territory's oft-criticized environmental regulatory system, says an expert hired by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Neil McCrank, known officially by the ponderous title, "Special Representative for the Northern Regulatory Improvement Initiative," made the recommendation in a report last week.

"As noted earlier, land use planning is the key to early involvement by the people of Nunavut in the management of the resources of the territory," McCrank said.

He also said the federal government, in consultation with the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., should finish work on a much-need new law that would be called the Nunavut Land Use Planning and Impact Assessment Act.

Such a law would guide the activities of the Nunavut Planning Commission and the Nunavut Impact Review Board.

The Nunavut Planning Commission was created in 1992, just before completion of the Nunavut land claims agreement.

But after 15 years of work and more than $40 million in spending, the commission has yet to create a land use plan for Nunavut.

Only two completed Nunavut land use plans exist, for the Kivalliq and North Baffin regions, based mostly on work that was cut and pasted from earlier processes led by the federal government.

A land use plan is similar to the general plans and zoning bylaws used by municipalities, listing which areas of land may be used for what purpose. That includes decisions on what areas should be protected for conservation purposes and what areas may be open to mining or other industrial uses.

In 2005, the planning commission imploded when a group of commission members, who made a long list of allegations mostly related to information sharing and financial accountability, rebelled against the organization's chair and vice-chair.

That led to the eventual departure of those two people from their jobs.

In 2006, under a new chair and new executive director, the planning commission turned over a new leaf and committed itself to producing land use plans for all of Nunavut within four years.

But McCrank says that work will require more money from the federal government.

The bulk of McCrank's report looks at the convoluted regulatory system in the Northwest Territories, where a confusing array of environmental management boards arose out of various regional land claim settlements.

But he does devote two small sections to Nunavut and Yukon.

Although mineral exploration firms have complained that Nunavut's system is too cumbersome, McCrank said Nunavut's system is less complicated.

"The one feature that is remarkably different from the NWT is the simplicity of the system in Nunavut. One comprehensive land claim agreement covers the whole territory," McCrank said.

He said, however, that the Nunavut system does suffer from some problems:

  • a lack of capacity;
  • it takes too much time for large projects to be approved, which suggests that Nunavut's system may need to be streamlined;
  • the lack of a definition for what's meant by "consultation."

He also said the GN and the federal government may have to make some political decision about opening Arctic sea lanes to year-round shipping.

"The potential for resource development in much of Nunavut will only be realized if there is the ability to transport the resource by water. The opening of some of the water passages to year-round shipping is an issue that may require a policy resolution by the federal and Nunavut governments," McCrank said.

In a press release issued July 22, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. said they agree with all of McCrank's recommendations.

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