Page 364 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 17 February 2015

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A broad range of stakeholders attended, including primary producers and urban food producers; distributors and retailers, including farmers markets; consumers, such as restaurants and caterers; relevant policy and advocacy organisations; food production and food security academics; and ACT government representatives. The roundtable agreed that in the context of increasing threats of climate change and peak oil, food security is an ever growing and significant issue. We agreed on the importance of reliable local food supply to help develop resilience in relation to ACT and regional food security.

The United Nations publishes an annual food report and every year it shows a decline in food quality, highlighting the importance of funding for agricultural research, especially into food quality. It is important to note the role of food production systems to people’s health and that, sadly, only 68 per cent of people eat enough vegetables.

The roundtable first held a plenary session where people raised both obstacles to and opportunities for increased food production in the ACT. Small groups were then formed to further explore particular issues. The roundtable explored a broad range of policies and initiatives that could be used to support food production, including exploring improvements that could be made to the planning system for rural use, such as introducing agricultural zoning into the territory plan so that productive agricultural land is protected and utilised, and improving policies that facilitate the use of private land and public open space for food production within urban areas, whether they be domestic, community, market or commercial gardens.

Together, the roundtable explored how the ACT government’s strategies and policies could deliver practical food security outcomes. I will provide a general overview of the ideas and comments that participants contributed on the day, both through the plenary and the smaller group sessions. As you will hear, this is a very diverse list—some simple, some rather more complex—but I believe they are worth sharing in this place so that all members might hear the ideas. It also highlights many opportunities to improve the use of our land that do not particularly need government funding but may be facilitated through policy change.

The key issue of land use for primary production was raised on the day, with a range of suggested actions, such as creating specific zoning for agricultural use in the territory plan; identifying high quality agricultural land in the ACT and applying agricultural zoning; ensuring water security for agricultural use and reducing obstacles to the reuse of water; ensuring continued and accessible, affordable, arable land—lack of security of tenure is an issue for many farmers: it is hard to be a responsible land manager and plan for the longer term when you only have a short to medium-term lease—exploring food security legislation, including requirements for food security impact statements for development, including assessment of soil and water, and secure leases for designated agricultural land; master planning for rural areas; better integration of agriculture into other land uses, such as the use of surplus land around vineyards; investigating communal farming opportunities, including finding out whether rural leaseholders in urban fringe areas would be interested in land share arrangements for market gardens; and, finally, identifying underutilised agricultural grade land such as the Molonglo River flats. Given the water and nutrients available there, perhaps the area could be used for market gardens.

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