Home' ALGY : ALGY Edition 24 2017 Contents 106 • THE AUSTRALIAN LOCAL GOVERNMENT YEARBOOK EDITION 24
PAR ARDEN EQUIPMENT
intentions and expectations clear at the start, a degree of clarity
is achieved that can ease future relations.
Making local environments better
Recent research conducted for the New South Wales Office
of Environment and Heritage disclosed that, in addition to
the aforementioned benefits, improving local environments
figured strongly as a motivation in community gardening. This
is what gardeners mean when they talk about 'regreening the
neighbourhood', a statement that comes up when they are
asked why they garden.
There has been a strong focus among both local
government and environmental organisations on the role of
native plants in improving urban environments. Councils, for
example, employ bushland officers and support community
bushland regeneration groups.
Now, there is a growing realisation that exotic (non-native)
plants also play a significant role in urban environmental
improvement, and in providing habitat and resources to
wildlife. It is here that community gardens are of value, though
community gardeners plant native species, too. Community
gardens installing honey and native beehives often plant a
profusion of flowering plants as bee fodder, an action that
apiarists support because it reinforces the resilience of honey
bee populations, and makes them less vulnerable to the
possibility of colony collapse disorder reaching Australia and
decimating bee populations.
Blending native, exotic and edible species in community
gardens benefits our cities because there isn't any particular
type of vegetation that improves urban environments -- it is the
total diversity and biomass of vegetation in a city that supports
A few challenges
The 40-odd years of community gardening in Australia has
seen the practice move from the social fringes (where all good,
innovative ideas start) to the social mainstream, and community
gardening is now recognised as a valid urban land use.
Despite this, community gardeners sometimes face
challenges to establishing and managing their gardens.
Fortunately, councils are figuring less among these challenges,
because many are now more amenable to the idea of
community gardens, and can be guided by other councils
that have adopted enabling policy for community gardening
and other arrangements they have made. Some make their
community grants schemes available to new community
garden groups to provide the start-up capital they need to get
going. Councils make no charge for the use of land because of
the social and dietary benefits that community gardening can
Paying for public liability insurance remains one of the
biggest challenges facing community gardeners, many of
whom see it as throwing away money for a service that they are
unlikely to need. It is usually a requirement of councils, though,
that insurance is obtained before access to land is granted.
It was in the mid 1990s when Randwick Community
Organic Garden made its start in a disused area adjacent to the
community centre. Gardeners built and tended their garden for
years until, while the land was being assessed for redevelopment,
patches of asbestos contamination were found in the soil -- the
legacy of the old fibro buildings that once stood nearby.
The garden was subsequently closed. Not to be deterred, a
core group of gardeners worked to obtain a new site, which the
council provided access to. Now, the community garden thrives
on what was previously another patch of poorly used urban land.
Contaminated land has also, in a couple instances, led
to delays in starting a garden while council remediated the
land. Investigating previous land use has proven a worthwhile
endeavour for both gardeners and councils.
Gardens are usually imagined as peaceful places; however,
some years ago, one Sydney community garden found that is
not always the case. One of their members was disruptive to
such an extent that she risked alienating members who didn't
want to have to deal with her attitude. Finally, she complained to
the council. Council stepped in and closed the garden as it had
Checking out the leek crop at Cook Community Garden in
Canberra. Unlike most community gardens that are on local
government land, Cook is hosted by a church
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