'It's a tough file': Nunavut's land use plan to get 4th draft

It will lay out what parts of the territory are open for exploration and resource development, what areas require some level of environmental protection, and what areas are completely off limits.

Nunavut Planning Commission accepting responses to written comments on draft plan until Jan. 25

Once it goes into effect, the Nunavut land use plan will have the legal force to dictate what land in the territory is open for development and what needs to be protected. (Baffinland)

The Nunavut Planning Commission says it's going to start work on the fourth draft of a territory-wide land use plan.

It will lay out what parts of the territory are open for exploration and resource development, what areas require some level of environmental protection, and what areas are completely off limits.

To complete the new draft, the commission says it needs more money from the federal government and it plans to ask for it in the next two weeks.

"It is up to Canada to fund the commission adequately and to support the commission to be successful," said its executive director Sharon Ehaloak.

Sharon Ehaloak is the executive director of the Nunavut Planning Commission. (Travis Burke/CBC)

"It's a tough file. There is a lot of competing interests and I think it is in everyone's best interest and it is mandated in the Nunavut Agreement to have a plan in place."

Mining and other industries want a plan set in order to decide what projects to invest in; while community members want the peace of mind of having traditional hunting routes and caribou calving grounds protected. 

The commission's submission will ask for money for four public hearings across the territory, one in each of Nunavut's three regions, with the Qikiqtaaluk region broken into north and south Baffin.

There is a lot of competing interests.- Sharon Ehaloak, executive director of Nunavut Planning Commission

The consultation process to develop the plan has been ongoing since 2007, according to Ehaloak. ​Previous drafts of the plan were completed in 2012 and 2014.

In order for the land use plan to come into effect, the federal and territorial governments and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. need to sign off on it.

The March 2017 consultation for the Qikiqtaaluk region cost around $2.8 million, and it was there that it became clear that none of the three main parties were pleased with the 2016 draft.

After the 2017 Qikiqtaaluk consultation, the Kitikmeot and Kivalliq hearings were put on indefinite hold.

Comments to close soon

In July 2018, the commission reopened the 2016 plan to written comments, and then extended the commenting time to allow for responses to the new submissions.

All written submissions need to be in by noon on Jan. 25.

"We've heard loud and clear. It's taken a long time to get here and we need to ensure that, from the commission perspective, we're fulfilling our obligation under the Nunavut Agreement... to move... the draft plan forward as quickly as possible," Ehaloak said.

She says whether or not the planning commission gets the money it's asking for, it will work on redrafting a plan.

If it doesn't get the money, it will work within its current operating budget and likely rely more heavily on the written comments.

Ehaloak says there could be a final draft as early as 2020.