Friday, October 8, 2010

Coburg Community Garden Update - Part 1: Moreland Council Policy Activity

Well, progress on a community garden in Coburg has been slow over Winter but we have a few small, exciting things to report.

This is the first of three posts updating on our progress

1. Council Policy Activity
In July, Moreland Council revealed that they are developing a "policy" on community gardens. Here's what we know now:

As a part of their Open Space Strategy review, the unit responsible for open space planning and development is putting together some assessment criteria to be considered by Council when they receive requests for the use of space under Council management for community gardens. They say that hopefully "a draft revised Open Space Strategy will be out for public consultation in November."

They are working with other key areas (Property Services Unit, Sustainable Development Unit and Social Policy Unit) to resolve how they should best support and resource these initiatives in the future. They say "allowing community gardens in parks has the potential to become a controversial issue so the assessment criteria for the use of public space and parks in particular is fairly critical, as these requests are growing and Council does not have a uniform position."

Promisingly, they add that "at this point, there is no specific designated Council funding to support these initiatives but there are potential funding opportunities through the community grants program and there is a genuine willingness and desire by Council to support these initiatives where possible."

They say the growing number of requests for community garden developments have been directed to a range of Council areas. They hope to formulate a more comprehensive Council approach and an agreed position on the development of these initiatives. The assessment process relating to land use and Council parks that they are working on will form part of the total approach but is also probably the most urgent matter requiring a resolution.

In my view, although this helps clarify their position, lots of questions remain:
  • What criteria are they considering? Presumably some relate to the site and others to the group applying?
  • What is the consultation process and who is being consulted? 
  • How are they arriving at their draft policy?
  • What can we do as a group to give ourselves the best chance?
  • Does this mean proposals are being held over until this strategy document is completed?
  • What is the time-scale for release of the final document?
I'm also intrigued by their mention of the growing number of requests.

I know of at least one other group that has approached Council for support but would like to know how many other requests there have been and from whom?

It would be good to co-ordinate these requests so we work in an organised way with Council. If several groups are unknowingly asking for access to the same space for a garden, then it would be great to link up. We'd surely have a stronger case then and we wouldn't want different groups competing for the same ground. It would also save Council time if the published their assessments to avoid repeated requests for space that is not suitable for whatever reason.

Next step: Contact Council for an update in the next few weeks and to ask the questions I've mentioned above.