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Delta South MLA calls for protection of prime farmland

More than 600 acres of land have remained in limbo
Paton says the area is facing looming development pressures. Delta Optimist file

Delta South MLA Ian Paton has once again called on the government to protect the future of a large local farming area from development.

The BC United MLA recently brought forward a private member’s bill to the B.C. legislature again for the prime farmland held by the Crown to be kept for agriculture and wildlife habitat in perpetuity, and also offered back to local farmers with long-term leases.

“Ensuring the ongoing stewardship of these 600 acres by the Crown for agricultural use and as a wildlife refuge, with the option of long-term leases to local farmers, is crucial,” said Paton. “My hope is for the NDP to put aside political differences and bring this bill to the floor, allowing us to amend a longstanding grievance and secure the future of this irreplaceable area for the benefit of future generations.”

The future of Brunswick Point, which is in proximity to the port, remains unclear as it did when the province expropriated large swaths of the area five decades ago.

In 1968, about 4,000 acres of farmland in Delta was expropriated to support a future port at Roberts Bank. Many years later, after realizing the expropriated lands were not needed during that time, the province offered to sell most of the farms back to the original owners who had been leasing the properties.

However, just over 600 acres of Brunswick Point farmland were held back by the Crown, only offered to longtime farm families who originally owned them through short-term leases.

Longtime farmers and the City of Delta had been calling for an opportunity for the farmers to buy the land or get longer-term leases.

The worry is that the lands are now seen as important for industrial development, given the shortage of available industrial properties in the region.

The Tsawwassen First Nation under its treaty has first right of first refusal should the lands be sold to anyone outside the Brunswick Point families.

The city had previously warned that the increased cost of land created a situation where purchasing the lands is becoming unattainable for most of the original farm families.