GIA’s Simple Guide to the Islands Trust

The Gulf Islands Alliance encourages islanders to know and participate in the visionary mandate of the Islands Trust. Facing pressures on the islands such as climate change and rapid growth, the Trust – a unique form of government designed to preserve and protect scenic and precious islands’ environment and communities – itself deserves preserving and protecting. We are fortunate to have one of the world’s few governments dedicated to conservation.

Here’s a quick look at the Trust (prepared by GIA):

Area and inhabitants – The Trust encompasses 13 major islands and 450 smaller islands in the Strait of Georgia and Howe Sound in southwestern British Columbia. Home to 25,000 people, the Trust area attracts more than 1 million visitors annually and boasts an abundant biodiversity including many rare and endangered species.

History and Purpose – In the 1960s and ’70s, people who cared about the Gulf Islands became increasingly worried that poorly managed growth and development would one day overwhelm and ruin these islands. As a result, in 1974 the province created the Trust to safeguard ‘the Trust area and its unique amenities and environment for the benefit of the residents of the Trust area and of British Columbia generally.’ With a population growing at twice the provincial rate, the Trust continues to struggle to save the rural life and natural environment that attracts visitors and property buyers to the islands.

Structure – Every three years two trustees are elected in each of 12 island areas and in the Bowen Island Municipality, for a total of 26 trustees on the Islands Trust Council. Except for Bowen, where trustees are part of a municipal council, each pair and a chair person comprise a Local Trust Committee. Each chair is a trustee from another island area appointed by the Trust’s four-member executive committee.

Function – The Trust primarily plans and regulates land uses which must conform to the preserve and protect goals on the Islands Trust Act. Regional districts and other entities look after other local services such as roads, policing and fire protection.

Trust Council sets policies for the entire Trust area, directs staff, ensures bylaws and official community plans conform to the Trust Policy Statement, and interacts with provincial and federal agencies whose work affects the Trust area. Council meets at various locations four times a year, usually for three days.

Local Trust Committees hold public business meetings that often include Trust staff reports and land use regulations. These committees are guided by official community plans and bylaws that are reviewed for possible revisions about every five years. Changes are sent to the Trust executive committee for approval. The provincial Ministry of Community Services must also approve changes. Local trust committee meeting schedules are posted in island newspapers and on the Trust website and various community information networks and notice boards. Trustees also serve as community leaders who interact with other agencies.

Trust financing – Most of the Trust’s operating budget is from local taxes. The Trust is also funded through user charges, including application fees and provincial grants. Since the Trust started, provincial funding has dwindled from almost 100 percent to 2 percent today.

Islands Trust Fund – In 1990 the Trust created a regional land trust to work with island communities. The Trust Fund Board, through acquisitions and conservation covenants, has protects special natural and cultural features. Citizens can participate by making donations or contributing land or conservation covenants on their properties. For example, the Natural Area Protection Tax Exemption Program gives landowners on many islands a tax reduction on the portion of their property protected by a conservation covenant. See the Trust website for further information.

Get involved in Islands Trust

Elections – Having good trustees is one of the best ways to ensure that the islands are protected. If you don’t run yourself, you can still help by recruiting and electing candidates committed to the Trust mandate.

Committee and Council meetings – Comments by e-mails, letters, conversations with trustees and/or presentations at public meetings and hearings are welcomed on re-zoning and development-related applications and other land use matters brought to your Local Trust Committee. It can reject or amend any proposal before and/or during giving it three readings. Changes to official community plans or bylaws require an official public hearing. This process differs in the Bowen municipality. At quarterly Trust Council meetings, time is set aside for presentations and comments from the public. For more on how to have your voice heard, check the Trust website.

Official community plan reviews – Held approximately every five years, trustees guide these reviews, inviting extensive citizen input. Typically, citizens can participate by applying to serve on committees, by expressing views in writing and/or speaking at small group sessions or community meetings.

Bylaw compliance – Enforcement generally is complaint-based. Islanders who witness a bylaw violation can contact the Trust and speak to a bylaw enforcement officer.

How to contact the Islands Trust

Trust Website: gives the full story on Islands Trust, including how to contact your trustees. You can sign up for a subscription service to receive e-mails about the Trust.

Victoria Office:
(Serving Trust Council, overall Trust management, Islands Trust Fund, and the Galiano, Mayne, North Pender, South Pender, Saturna and Executive Islands Trust areas.)
Islands Trust
200 – 1627 Fort Street
Victoria, BC V8R 1 H8

Salt Spring Office:
Islands Trust
1 – 500 Lower Ganges Rd.
Salt Spring Island BC V8K 2N8

Gabriola Office:

(Serving the Denman, Gabriola, Gambier, Hornby, Lasqueti and Thetis Trust areas).
Islands Trust
700 North Road
Gabriola Island, BC V0R 1X3

Bowen Island Municipality Office:
981 Artisan Lane Box 279,
Bowen Island, BC V0N 1G0