The Farmers Advisory Office has requested a two year short term contract extension with the Peace River Regional District.
The FAO offers advice and assistance to landowners on surface lease negotiations and rights of way with the oil and gas industry. The current contract expires July 31, 2018, and they have been operating on one-year contracts since 2013.
There was some concern the FAO “crosses the line from advice to representation,” according to Tumbler Ridge Mayor Don McPherson, who says he has heard complaints.
“We would like to widen our scope, but not to legal representation — we are not qualified,” says Anne Clayton, one of the delegates for the FAO. “We don’t believe you can serve the public if you only hand out pamphlets. We want to give good service, and if it garners criticism, so be it.”
The FAO had also proposed the PRRD solely fund the FAO, rather than jointly with the provincial government, “for greater flexibility in serving landowners.” They expressed interest in expanding their services beyond just the oil and gas industries, noting the effects of land use by BC Hydro and wind power.
This proposal seemed to be in opposition to a recommendation presented from the February 15, 2018 Electoral District Meeting for the BC government to entirely fund the office beyond 2019. The recommendation did not pass, as PRRD directors felt more discussion was needed, particularly with the provincial government.
“I haven’t heard the perspective of the province,” says Taylor Mayor Rob Fraser. “I think there’s some work to be done by us and the province before we make a decision.”
“[The FAO] are telling us they want to move into other areas and ministries, but we have nothing from the province that says that would be even considered,” says PRRD Chair Brad Sperling.
It was agreed for the Regional District to meet with the ministries involved in funding to gain a better understanding.
“We have put enough money set aside to keep the office going one more year,” says Electoral Area B Director Karen Goodings. “I think we have got basically a year to get our act together, as to what we see as the way to go. We are hoping the province funds half of it, but it is in our budget, providing it gets passed.
“At this point, we are not at the decision making point in the conversation.”