Gerry Zimmermann appears to have crossed partisan political lines in being reappointed for another two year term as vice-chair on the Agricultural Land Commission.
This is Zimmermann’s second go-round with the ALC, having first been invited by former Liberal MLA Al Horning more than 10 years ago, then stepping aside when he was elected and served one term on Kelowna city council.
He was recruited to return to the ALC by Liberal MLA Norm Letnick four years ago.
“The government in power then changed but I was asked at that time to serve another two year term. I was surprised but quite pleased about that,” he said.
“Then I was asked recently if I was interested in serving another two year term and I was happy to do it.”
Zimmermann said he enjoys and takes seriously the role the ALC plays in protecting unnecessary land exclusion from farmland protected with the Agricultural Land Reserve, first established by the NDP government under premier Dave Barrett in 1972.
“It is very important for protecting our food source down the road. Only four per cent of B.C.’s land mass is within the ALR so it is important to preserve it,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean you have to save all of it but you have to look at every application for ALR land exclusion very, very carefully.”
Zimmermann, who found himself placed in the national media spotlight as Kelowna’s fire chief during the 2003 Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire, is retired but keeps busy at the age of 71.
He still operates a small farm with a vineyard, and also is a board member for the Black Mountain Irrigation District.
“I feel quite privileged to be involved in issues related to water and food, which are important to all of us,” he said.
Zimmermann added while land exclusion bids came sometimes be politically contentious, he says the value of the ALR seems well established today.
“I think all levels of government realize how important the ALR is and I don’t see anyone doing away with it. But subdividing and building houses on land in the ALR brings with it a lot of pressures. The desire to develop land is high but that’s why we have to be careful with it,” he said.