Submission: VEAC Inquiry into use of Crown and Public Authority Land in Metropolitan Melbourne

This submission briefly addresses part b) of the Terms of Reference:

"The potential value of Crown land, and public authority land for areas not committed to a specific use, and report on appropriate future uses relevant to Melbourne’s liveability and natural values."

This submission outlines VEIL’s position that food production in urban Melbourne will be critical to the provision of secure, healthy and sustainable food supplies, which in turn are essential for a city to be ‘liveable’. We have outlined the need and opportunities for increased food production within urban areas, with particular reference to environmental impacts and vulnerabilities, and highlighted opportunities for innovative and effective resource use.

In the context of the challenges we face, both urban and rural landscapes that provide healthy and sustainable food will be a critical natural value. We propose that the term ‘natural values’ should be used to describe sustainable functioning ecosystems, which integrate human productive activities with healthy and flourishing native biodiversity. The submission also provides examples of where sustainable food production in urban areas has been integrated with improved native biodiversity outcomes.

In this submission, we have also suggested a number of benefits to the authorities that manage these public lands, which extend well beyond simply providing healthy and sustainable food. These include:

  • Social equity – providing access to land and resources for food production, particularly to those in urban areas without space or land ownership
  • Restoration of degraded lands
  • Public land dedicated to urban agriculture can be maintained by farmers and gardeners, reducing maintenance costs
  • Urban farms and community gardens meet public open space requirements and preserve the community’s natural heritage
  • Job opportunities, local economic development e.g., landscaping, design, urban farming, processing and retailing
  • Within urban spaces, making provision for (and supporting communities to) grow food on public land can improve land values and food access
  • Urban farmers and gardeners can assist in protecting public spaces from unofficial uses and informal re-zoning
  • Provide a revenue stream for authorities

In light of the rapidly accelerating threats to the sustainability and security of our food system (outlined in Part 1), and the broad advantages to public authorities of supporting food production on public land (outlined in Part 2), the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab strongly recommends serious and strategic consideration of sustainable food production and related activities as an appropriate use of Crown and public authority lands within Metropolitan Melbourne.