Cross-sectoral alliance influences regional plan

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The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) Alliance is a coalition of over 40 groups from diverse sectors that has come together to preserve green areas in the region and reverse the decline of the downtown and smaller centres. The alliance, which includes business, environmental, recreational, arts & culture, and community groups, reflects a growing consensus that something has to be done about urban sprawl, which is undermining the health of the downtown, promoting car use and congestion, and whittling away at natural areas on the fringe.

One of the group’s key proposals is to create a greenbelt around the city that would include protected natural areas and corridors designated for wildlife and recreational activities, as well as working landscapes for agriculture, forestry and fishing. The group focuses on public education and awareness; it sponsors public events such as lectures and workshops, writes planning briefs, and monitors the implementation of the 2003 HRM regional plan to show where improvement is needed in managing regional growth. The group has been very successful in placing sprawl on the political agenda in the context of the last year's municipal election and the current regional plan review. The most recent draft of the new (2013) regional plan reflects many of the Alliance's goals.

The group was inspired in part by the successful greenbelt initiative in Southern Ontario and Bruce Lourie, President of the Ivey Foundation, has been an active advisor to the group. Funding for the group is coming from the Ivey and McConnell foundations, plus donations from individuals and businesses (such as Mountain Equipment Co-op). Funding help from national foundations has given the group the resources it needs to operate in the short term and boosted its credibility among local stakeholders. The Ecology Action Centre (a registered charity) leads the group and administers its finances.

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