Arzeena Hamir has experience in bringing together people with opposing views, a skill she would use to improve decision-making at the regional district level
Arzeena Hamir has decided to seek election as the Area B representative on the regional district because she can offer a fresh perspective on how the Comox Valley Regional District makes decisions.
Hamir would definitely bring a world view to local government.
Born in Tanzania, East Africa, she moved with her family to Richmond, BC in 1973. After finishing a BA degree in agriculture at the University of Guelph, Hamir served as a CUSO volunteer in Thailand, where she’s fluent in the language.
She then spent time in India doing field research for the Masters degree in sustainable agriculture that she earned from the University of London, England.
After concluding her studies, Hamir worked as an agrologist for West Coast Seeds, and as the food security coordinator for the Richmond Food Security Society creating community gardens and doing education workshops.
In 2012, she started her own farm, Amara Farms, in the Comox Valley, and helped form Merville Organics, a co-operative venture with four other area farmers.
FURTHER READING: For more interviews with candidates and a full list of who’s running for councils, regional district and school board, go to our Elections 2018 page
Over the last six years, Hamir has become increasingly concerned with how some local political decisions have been made and wants to use her skills in bringing people together to take a different approach.
“I see projects on the horizon that could impact the things that attracted me to the Comox Valley — land, water and community,” she told Decafnation. “I want to shine a light on them in a way that hasn’t been thought about.”
Hamir points to the proposed Agriplex for the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds (CVEG) as an example of a project — included in the CVEG Master Plan “in an underhanded way” — for which there is no proven need and will burden taxpayers forever.
“I see many needs in the Valley, this is not one of them,” she said. “We should channel that community energy and staff time and money into real needs.
“We’ve got bigger things to think about.”
One of those is building the Comox Valley into Vancouver Island’s primary food producer.
Right now, about 95 percent of food consumed on the Island comes from somewhere else. Hamir says that’s not a good long-term position.
“The Valley is blessed with lots of farmable land while other Island areas are losing theirs,” she said. “We should be ramping up production.”
The Cowichan Valley is drying up, she says, and farms have dramatically lost production. Saanich peninsula farms are losing ground to McMansions and mega cannabis growing operations, plus they have soil and water challenges.
“We don’t have those same development and climate pressures,” she said. “If the Comox Valley Regional District could support farmers, even just helping them share information and work cooperatively so they can continue to farm, this industry will be successful.”
Hamir recognizes the diversity of interests in Area B. Its boundaries include the Comox peninsula, Bates Beach, Lazo and Point Holmes and parts of Headquarters Road in the Tsolum regions.
“I don’t have all the answers,” she said. “But I have the experience and ability to bring people with opposing views together.”
She is a founder of the Mid-Island Farmers Institute, an organization of about 80 farmers formed to address common issues and share information. She also helped form the Comox Valley Food Security Roundtable for a similar purpose.
Hamir says she would build on those experiences to address issues at the regional district level, such as sewerage, land development and water.
“We have people on city water and wells, and we have boil water advisories and water bottling proposals, and our glaciers are shrinking,” she says. “I would bring people together to create better watershed plans.”
She wonders if climate change is being fully considered in regional decision-making.
“It worrisome to have sewer pipes in the foreshore and to allow building in flood plains,” she says. “I’m not afraid to tackle those issues.”
She opposes the 3L Developments proposal to build a subdivision at Stotan Falls because it contradicts the expressed wishes of the community represented in the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS).
“I don’t take changes to the RGS lightly,” she said. “We need more infill in our existing settlement nodes and urban cores before stressing the outer areas.”
Hamir would also like to see more incentives for Area B residents to recycle. Some households rely on private collectors, but recycling isn’t built into those contracts. She proposes a discount for only one garbage bin, more composting education and making recycling easier to do in the rural areas.