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Saanich endorses plan for food production on Panama Flats

Coun. Dean Murdock wants next council to follow through on idea
It might be back to the future for Saanich’s Panama Flats as new plan calls on Saanich to convert the area into agricultural use. (Black Press File)

A new report calls on Saanich to follow through on plans to convert parts of Panama Flats into food production use.

The recommendation appears in Saanich’s Agriculture and Food Security Plan that council this week, in allocating $150,000 towards its implementation.

Coun. Dean Murdock – who pushed for the plan but won’t seek re-election in the fall – said he hopes future councils will finally do what Saanich failed to do in the past.

“Saanich has had Panama Flats for seven years, and no food is being grown on it,” he said. “That’s quality growing space. My move in the next term, if I were here, would be to put the land into production. It’s already a farm. What are we waiting for?” he said, drawing applause from the audience.

Saanich acquired the property in December 2011 for a price of $2.4 million for several reasons, including food security. And about 8.5 hectares of the total 25 hectare area is part of the Agricultural Land Reserve, according to Saanich documents.

The idea of converting portions of Panama Flats into food use is not new.

In 2015, Saanich submitted an application to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), in which Saanich proposed to return parts of the property back to productive farm land, then lease the area for agricultural production.

According to the ALC’s assessment, “the [property] has good agricultural capability and potential.”

RELATED: Panama Flats plan heads to Saanich public hearing Monday

But the ALC also found that any future agricultural use of the site could cause problems in denying the application to include 14.5 hectares into the Agricultural Land Reserve. “As noted previously, the [property] is located in an urban area which could bring potential conflicts from both the agricultural and urban sides.”

Saanich, in other words, would have to convince plenty of actors, including the ALC, before the area returns to farming use.

Councillors, however, sounded undeterred — at least rhetorically — in their support for the specific idea, and the more general thrust of the agricultural and food security plan, against the backdrop of climate change and pressures to convert farmland into non-farming uses.

“This is a plan, we have been waiting for some time,” said Coun. Susan Brice.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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