Investigating the sustainability and resilience criteria for evaluation of land use plans and related policies: The case of rural Niagara
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Most land use plans and policies, including those concerning growth management, are created in urban hubs (Afshar, 1994; Summer, 2005). My interest in this thesis started by asking the question: What are the criteria that ensure that land use plans and related policies serve rural livelihoods and stewardship under the lens of sustainability and resilience? Being a citizen residing in Niagara Region, I was inspired to find out the criteria to judge plans and policies in rural Niagara as a case study. This thesis uncovers the categories of consideration for rural areas close to urban centres in developed countries, and the context-specific criteria pertaining to rural Niagara. The eight context-specific categories, merged with sustainability and resilience imperatives, are presented as evaluation criteria in a brief form as follows: 1. Plans and policies should provide for building communities’ capacity in participative and collaborative governance including overlap in governance; 2. provide means for reconciling different interests in a way that celebrates diversity and ensures sufficiency and opportunity for all towards intragenerational equity while supporting community solidarity to acknowledge slow variables and feedback signals; 3. provide for the support of viable farming by fostering livelihood sufficiency and preserving resources for future generations within a regional character; 4. provide for strengthening the socio-economic base integrity in ways that also maintain/ rehabilitate the socio-ecological base by reducing threats to its long-term integrity while encouraging diversity and innovation. 5. Plans and policies are to be used as tools to reduce intragenerational and intergenerational inequities in livelihood sufficiency and opportunity through collective responsibility, and innovative solutions to the local poverty problems. 6. Plans and policies should allot specific clauses to alleviate land stressors through institutionalized adoption of the precautionary principle, socio-ecological system integrity and the application of all sustainability imperatives while rewarding voluntary stewardship. 7. Plans and policies should acknowledge and foster multi-functionality in agriculture as one of the means to foster livelihoods, socio-ecological system integrity, and sustainable use of resources through the integration of all sustainability imperatives. Multi-functionality entails fostering diversification, the building of a regional modular character while acknowledging slow variables and system feedbacks through innovative local solutions 8. Plans and policies should cater for Preparedness for the Future by institutionalizing the adoption of precaution and adaptation as one of the means to prepare for uncertainty and applying all sustainability imperatives to seek mutually supportive benefits while nurturing a resilient Niagara character through all resilience imperatives The above eight categories relate to all the sustainability imperatives (listed in appendix C) and all the resilience imperatives (listed in appendix D) in various ways. The research used the technique of triangulation for corroborating evidence. By reviewing a purposeful sample of Niagara government and non-government documents, the presence of the eight categories was confirmed. A sample of articles in a local paper also confirmed the presence of the categories. By counting the number of mentions for each category, the priority order was inferred. In the case of Niagara the top priority is given to “Viable Farming” as concerns grow over the mounting challenges faced by family farms. “Stewardship” is the second priority to enable the rural and farming communities to play the role of land stewards.