A provincial investigation into the Regional District of North Okanagan’s handling of proposed Shuswap River boat regulations has been closed.
The Office of the Ombudsperson received complaints from nine individuals who claimed RDNO conducted inadequate consultation over the Shuswap River water sustainability plan and the recommendation for community engagement on motorized boat restrictions.
“We noted that the district did not appear to have a bylaw, policy or guideline respecting public consultation,” said Jay Chalke, ombudsperson, in a report.
“Given the direct impact that restrictive boating regulations will have on riverfront property owners/residents, we observed it may have been preferable if this group had been included earlier in the consultation process…”
Bob Fleming, RDNO chairperson, insists the district has always been committed to consultation.
“People may not have availed themselves to those opportunities but that’s not to say those opportunities weren’t there,” he said.
RDNO has accepted the obudsperson’s suggestion that a set of public participation principles and a framework to guide public participation in consultations be developed.
“What we had as a policy wasn’t written in the procedures bylaw and now it is,” said Fleming.
Chalke has also called on RDNO to write the complainants to assure them that their group of riverfront property owners will be involved in the upcoming consultation process.
“It will be directed public engagement,” said Fleming of involving stakeholders.
The complainants also went to the obudsperson over RDNO’s refusal to let the residents appear before the board over boat regulations.
RDNO officials had turned down the delegation requests because public consultation over boating restrictions were underway.
“It appeared the wording in the bylaw and procedure in their current form did not support the decisions to deny the complainants’ requests to make delegations to the board about the proposed boating restrictions,” wrote Chalke.
To settle the issue, RDNO has amended its procedures to prevent delegations when public consultation on a matter is being sought.