New N.B. wetlands development rules planned
New guidelines and online mapping tool available in January
Municipalities and property developers hope new provincial guidelines and a mapping system will clear up confusion when it comes to building around sensitive wetland areas.
Environment Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney announced last week that the New Brunswick government would release new guidelines for development around wetlands in January, along with a new online mapping tool.
New Brunswick's current regulatory system now forces developers to adhere to a long list of requirements if a project is in a wetland.
But Raymond Murphy, the executive director of the Union of Municipalities of New Brunswick, said construction often starts before it is clear the project is actually in a protected area.
He said this leads to confusion and frustration between the developer, the local government and the provincial government over what is to happen after the project is found to be located in, or could be in, a wetland.
"Development may start and all at once you hit something that may be a wetland or may not be, and until the department clarifies it, development is actually held up," Murphy said.
Murphy said municipalities end up getting caught in the middle when construction unexpectedly stops as growth of local economies ends up suffering.
"You've got developers that are very unhappy because they've put money into development, which is now going nowhere, and they are unhappy with the municipality," Murphy said.
New mapping system in January
The New Brunswick government implemented its wetlands protection policy in 2002 and since that time many different groups have expressed their frustration with the system.
Environment Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney said her department has met with more than 500 developers to find out how to minimize the problems.
The new rules are intended to fix many of the complaints raised in the last eight years.
"You've got to have that balance between protecting the environment. Our wetlands are precious, they're important but also so is economic development," Blaney said.
As well, Blaney said a new mapping system will be incorporated into the government's GeoNB site. The free online program will help people identify where wetlands exist.
The new mapping service will also be available online in January.
The GeoNB viewer was first launched in November 2009. According to the provincial government, the map viewer now receives more than 7,000 visitors a week.