While the community continues to progress towards achieving its long-term sustainability goals, there remains some room for improvement if Whistler hopes to meet its energy targets, according to a municipal staff report presented to council Tuesday (Nov. 20).
The report tracked the goals set out in Whistler2020, a municipal document adopted in 2004 that aims to create a long-term vision for the resort town’s sustainable development. The report looked at five areas deemed most important for Whistler’s success; enriching community life, enhancing the resort experience, protecting the environment, ensuring economic viability and partnering for success. Most of the data for the report was collected during the 2011 monitoring period and some findings used from this year’s community survey.
“There is room for improvement with regards to protecting the environment,” said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. “We have some work there, particularly on energy use and water use.”
Total water usage in 2011 increased by one per cent based on a three-year average, although it was eight per cent lower than 2010’s record high. The average daily water consumption last year was 536 litres per person, well above the community target of 425 litres per day.
Energy usage increased two per cent over the three-year average, but saw a slight drop in per capita usage compared to 2010.
The RMOW has already made many one-time efforts to reduce energy usage in the community through the implementation of various municipal programs, including the installation of electric car charging stations, the subsidization of transit services, the use of a hydrogen-powered bus fleet and an updated waste management program. This means that future efforts to curb energy usage in the community will have to rely primarily on Whistlerites altering their own consumption behaviours.
“We have some of the so-called low-hanging fruit taken care of with respect to energy consumption, and now it is going to take more effort to get that indicator moving in the right direction, there’s no question about that,” said Wilhelm-Morden.
Another area of concern in the report was the number of Whistler residents with incomes below the cost of living, although that level has dropped in relation to 2010 data. Approximately 25 per cent of permanent residents in 2011 had personal or combined incomes below the local cost of living, an eight per cent decrease from the previous year.
“Affordability is something that we’re very much aware of whenever we’re looking at any of our municipal programs or even our policies,” said Wilhelm-Morden. “We have affordability programs as far as local pass programs at the Meadow Park Sports Centre and we’ve advanced significantly with affordable housing in the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood.”
The remaining priority indicators outlined in the report showed mostly positive trends. Many of these indicators, such as resident and visitor satisfaction and trust in municipal officials, were tracked in this year’s community survey, released last month, with all showing an increase compared to 2010.
Economically, Whistler demonstrated continued growth in tourism, with occupancy rates, rooms sold and visitor numbers up over the year.
The resort town’s unemployment rate and median income remained relatively stable in the past year.
Whistler’s Chief Administrative Officer Mike Furey said the community’s Economic Partnership Initiative Committee, a group aimed at facilitating the collaboration between key economic stakeholders in order to provide the RMOW with development and planning recommendations, will continue its work to ensure the resort town’s continued growth.
“We’re looking at trying to understand the (economic) variables and drivers and once we get a full grasp of those … (we’ll) look at reallocating our resources across the resort to make a positive impact on Whistler,” he said.