Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Whatever happened to Moreland's Urban Agriculture and Food Production Strategy? Why not ask our Council election candidates!

Back in May 2015 some of us thought we were witnessing a local food policy breakthrough in Moreland.

Council were seeking volunteers to join a Community Advisory Committee that would help develop an Urban Agriculture and Food Production Strategy for Moreland by 30 September 2015. Consulting with the community in this way was a key strand in Council’s December 2014 resolution to upgrade from a proposed draft Community Food Growing policy to this broader strategy. This resolution was the result of pressure from community members who wanted Council to strive for something better when it comes to local food growing.

Soon it’ll be 2 years since we first saw the Community Food Growing Policy and started to advocate for something more. Where are we now, how did we get here and what can you do to help get things moving?

So where’s our strategy and what’s happened over those 2 years?

Well, by April of 2015 Council had allocated $30,000 for the development of a draft strategy and engaged consultant. Over the middle of 2015 he worked with a group of 30+ community volunteers who met three times. A great deal of goodwill, time and thought was invested by this group in what was one of the largest community consultations that Moreland Council has undertaken according to Council staff. This consultative approach to developing the strategy reportedly made some within Council nervous.

The output of that advisory group was a "framework", three admirable and worthwhile goals with measurable, observable outcomes and concrete statements of intent designed to guide Council activity.

These goals are, to achieve:
  • A sustainable food system that contributes to a more resilient community and a healthier environment 
  • A just food system that ensures food is socially and economically accessible to everyone in the community 
  • A vibrant food system that protects and nurtures food culture, celebrates diversity and builds community 

Completing a strategy was an ambitious aim for that group given the time they had so it was unsurprising that it didn’t happen. The framework they produced was a good, solid base to work from but there was still the expectation that it would become a strategy. As it stood, it lacked details of who would do what by when to make these outcomes happen.

Fast forward a year and this diminished version of the framework (in lieu of the requested strategy) presented for approval at the August 2016 Council meeting no longer contains any Council commitments. These were removed during the course of the “extensive consultation” after it left the community advisory group. Minutes from the August Council meeting imply that this framework (not a strategy) was the intended outcome. Actions proposed to support the framework (see page 185 of the agenda - careful it’s BIG) are narrowly focused, unambitious and will do little to advance any of the framework’s goals let alone move closer to a substantial strategy.

It’s hard to say why we find ourselves in this situation. Is it a result of accidental, gradual, bureaucratic dilution? Perhaps Council departments are overstretched and doing what they can to avoid being even more overburdened? Maybe there is a concerted effort to squash the local food growing agenda? Regardless, we have no strategy despite the wishes of the community and the Councillors.

Two years on the reasons we gave for growing more food locally and the need for a robust local food production strategy remain. The case for supporting urban agriculture and local food production is stronger than ever and other local Councils are introducing or extending their commitment. On 9 September the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV), the statutory peak body for the 79 local governments in the state, endorsed the Urban and Regional Food Declaration

At Moreland Council however, little has changed. Thankfully we still find pockets of support and individuals who will help but there seems to be no executive support or Councillor sponsorship. What activity there is doesn’t address the broader agenda described by the framework. Moreland Council has squandered the community’s goodwill, money, time and effort and is yet to address this need and opportunity.

There were those in the community who warned that, by challenging the proposed community food growing policy, we might end up with nothing. They’ve been right so far but the story isn’t over. In late July 2016 Councillors were approached by the community to help get the strategy back on track and to give it some momentum and oversight. At the August Council meeting they deferred the report and challenged some of the assumptions that are contained in it. Now, more work is being done to progress towards a strategy not framework.

So what can you do?

Well, Council elections are fast approaching (this Saturday, 22nd October). 
Lobby your local councillors! Exercise your democratic muscle.

Follow these four easy steps:
  1. If you don’t know which ward you are in check this map or enter your address details here.
  2. Once you know this, look below for contact details of all the candidates in your ward.
  3. Contact each of them, tell them you care about this and ask them what they will do.
  4. Whether they respond or not, spread the word! 
If you're wondering what to say, you could try something along these lines (use your own words and add personal experience to it to give it more impact):

I’m a Moreland voter and I’m getting in touch to find out where you stand on something before I vote at the council elections this weekend. 
It’s really important to me and lots of other people in the Moreland community that our food system should:
  • contribute to a more resilient community and a healthier environment, 
  • ensure food is socially and economically accessible to everyone in the community, and 
  • protect and nurture our food culture, celebrate our diversity and build our community. 
Food is a really important part of Moreland’s identity and I want our food system to help make people healthier, provide jobs, connect people, build capacity and resilience in our community and lots of other things. Council needs to help make this happen.
So here are my questions for you:

  1. If you are elected, what will you do to support the development of a vibrant, just and sustainable local food system for Moreland?
  1. How will you progress the continued development and implementation of Moreland’s Food System Strategy, and support the Social Development unit to undertake this work through the budgeting process?
Thanks in advance for getting back to me. I’ll share your response with all my friends and family help and spread the word for you!

Go on. You've got nothing to lose and a decent Urban Ag strategy for Moreland to gain!

Cantact details:

North-East Ward (4 vacancies)
Afshan Mian: afshanmian@bigpond.com
Ali Irfanli: aliformoreland@gmail.com
Paul Failla: ciao@ciaoaustralia.com.au
George Georgiou: georgeformoreland@onestop.net.au
Darcey Kelleher: darceykelleher@live.com.au
Anthony Helou: a.helou@me.com
Natalie Abboud: natalie.abboud@vic.greens.org.au
Annalivia Carli Hannan: annaliviach@gmail.com
Danny Michell: danny@dannymichell.com.au
Adam Pulford: adam.pulford@vic.greens.org.au
Helen Pavlidis: helenpavlidis@gmail.com
Francesco Timpano: f_timpano@hotmail.com
Gordon Gartside: gordon.gartside@outlook.com
Sue Bolton: sueboltonformoreland@gmail.com
Katerina Angelopoulos: k.angelopoulos@optusnet.com.au
Alex McGilvray: alex.mcgilvray@vic.greens.org.au
David Nunns: votefordavid2016@gmail.com
Antonio Bonifazio: abonner5@hotmail.com
Imogen Jubb: imogenajubb@gmail.com

North-West Ward (4 vacancies)
Raju Shakya: hakuchoyala@gmail.com
Mark O'Brien: Mobile: 0422 561 320
John Kavanagh: Kavanagh2016@hotmail.com
Alesio Mulipola: ale.mulipola@amwu.asn.au
Shaun Minehan: shaunminehan@gmail.com
Oscar Yildiz: contact@oscaryildiz.com.au
Alice Pryor: alice4moreland@gmail.com
Tony Astuto: Mobile: 0470 297 665
Parsuram SHARMA LUITAL: parsul2016@gmail.com
Mohamad Elmustapha: mohamad__321@hotmail.com
Helen Davidson: Mobile: 0455 907 209
Rosie Collins: Sian.Nelson@vic.greens.org.au
Milad El-Halabi: miladcmc@gmail.com
Dale Martin: dale.martin@vic.greens.org.au

South Ward (3 vacancies)Ray Pastoors: ray@yourvoiceinmoreland.com
Chris Hansen: chris@chrisformoreland.com
David O'Brien: blue11996@hotmail.com
Lambros Tapinos: lambros.tapinos@gmail.com
Dean O'Callaghan: deano@goodbrew.com.au
Joe Caputo: j.caputo@bigpond.com
Jess Dorney: jessdorney@gmail.com
Kelly Maree Smith: kellyformoreland@outlook.com
Samantha Ratnam: samantha.ratnam@vic.greens.org.au
Mel Yuan: melyuan@hotmail.com
Mark Riley: mark.riley@vic.greens.org.au
Meghan Hopper: meghan_b_hopper@hotmail.com
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