Community gardens in the ACT: Draft site selection criteria for future location - discussion paper report on community consultation

1. Introduction

This report provides a summary of the issues raised during community consultation on the ‘Community gardens in the ACT: draft site selection criteria for future locations – Discussion Paper’ (the Discussion Paper).

1.1 Community Gardens discussion paper

The Discussion Paper was released for community consultation by the Environment and Sustainable Development Directorate (ESDD) from 23 June to 3 August 2012.

The Discussion Paper’s main purpose was to canvass views on the key issues relating to the identification of the future location of community gardens, including draft site selection criteria.

The Discussion Paper is part of a series of ACT Government initiatives to facilitate community gardens.

1.2 Consultation process

Comments on the Discussion Paper were invited from key stakeholder and community groups, including Canberra Organic Growers Society and other gardening groups, peak bodies, community councils and regional community services providers (by email and letter). Notices about the Discussion Paper were placed in the Canberra Times and the Chronicle (on 23 June and 26 June 2012 respectively) and flyers were made available at ACT Government shopfronts, libraries and garden centres. The Discussion Paper was available to download from the ACT Government Time to Talk and the ESDD websites. An accompanying on-line survey was also open on the Time to Talk website during the consultation period.

The consultation received 29 submissions and comments. Submissions were received from several organisations, including Canberra Organic Growers Society (COGS), ACT Greens, ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS), Woden Community Service, Turner Residents Association and ACT Equestrian Association.

There were 140 respondents to the on-line survey. The survey provided further opportunity for detailed responses to be made to key issues.

Comments ranged over diverse issues concerning community gardening, its broader benefits, location and site requirements, possible governance structures and management practices. This report provides a summary of the issues raised in both submissions and on-line survey comments.

2. Issues raised in community consultation

The following section provides a summary of the issues raised in both submissions and in the detailed responses to the on-line survey.

2.1 Benefits of community gardening

2.1.1 Social inclusion

Many submissions stressed the opportunities that community gardens provide for social inclusion for a diverse range of people in a variety of settings, including residents of newer suburbs or higher density housing by “...bringing people together, having a common purpose and also having an edible or beautiful outcome”. Community gardens were also seen as a positive way to reduce some of the detrimental effects of poverty by access to affordable, healthy foods and by learning skills about how to grow food.

Other observations made about the inclusive nature of community gardening included:

  • COGS mentioned that it welcomes as members people from culturally diverse backgrounds, school students, youth at risk (those suffering depression, obesity or other issues) and with a criminal past wishing to rehabilitate.
  • ACTCOSS stressed that people experiencing disadvantage, in particular those with limited transport options and/or mobility such as older people or people with disabilities, are especially vulnerable to social exclusion; it is vital everyone is given the opportunity to participate in community events.
  • ACT Greens supported community gardens in the ACT because they contribute positively to several desirable community, environmental and sustainability outcomes including promoting community, and health and wellbeing.
  • Turner Residents Association saw community gardens enabling spontaneous interaction amongst residents, particularly in areas undergoing change.
  • Woden Community Service emphasised that the benefit of community gardens goes well beyond the traditional environmental and sustainable benefits. Community gardens provide an opportunity for people who may be socially isolated to connect to their neighbours and their community through sharing a common interest and/or desire to learn new skills. It is also an activity that can be accessed by all people, regardless of age or ability, through innovative and creative design.

On-line survey comments on social inclusion:

Many on-line respondents observed that community gardens are socially inclusive activities, specifically:

“… the benefits of community gardens go beyond the plain plot of land. They could foster and strengthen a sense of community in older suburbs as well as new.

“...great places to meet people from your local neighbourhood, foster community spirit and cooperation among people from all walks of life and of all ages.

“...a fantastic way of getting like minded people together to garden and exchange gardening ideas. At Holder we have young people in their 20s to senior community members up to in their 80s. It is a great community affair.

“...great source of community glue.

“...a sense of community...they don't discriminate on any grounds; you can be a novice or expert, old or young, able or disabled, Australian or not, as long as you are interested you're welcome.

Community gardens were considered an effective way to “deliver great benefits for minimal cost”, either by supporting local businesses (e.g. local farmers selling bulk lucerne bales or sheep manure, lawn mowing businesses delivering lawn clippings to compost) or by providing great learning/teaching environments where participants can learn from each other, even experienced gardeners, and older people are kept active, engaged and valued by passing gardening knowledge on to the younger generations.

A well run community garden was seen as a social asset in any neighbourhood. Although it was acknowledged that “...not all of them are wonderful to start with, but with the right people involved they can be a great outlet for lots of people. They tick so many boxes – mental health, community, children, environment”.

2.1.2 Health and wellbeing

Many submissions raised the health and wellbeing benefits of community gardening, including:

  • Physical activity – community gardens provide opportunities for people to be active. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians: Scientific Background Report, approximately 50% of Australians (39% males and 58% females) are considered insufficiently active. The same report states that ‘population benefits are likely to come from encouraging even small increases in physical activity levels among the least active’.
  • Mental health –poor mental health can be closely associated with social exclusion. Participation in society improves mental health and one’s everyday functioning. Social connections include engaging with friends and peers, undertaking education, art, hobbies, other activities, and social relationships. By creating a welcoming and inclusive environment, community gardens can serve as a valuable space for community members to engage in recreation and create meaningful relationships, both of which can improve mental health outcomes for participants.
  • Healthy eating – the benefits of fresh, nutritious and organic vegetables and fruit were identified in many submissions, including “...time poverty and energy poverty has compromised the quality of food that a large proportion of the population consumes”.

Online survey comments health and wellbeing:

Online respondents saw community gardening as a great way to keep fit and healthy, live more sustainably, have access to healthy, affordable and seasonal food, be involved in the community and reduce food miles. This was seen as particularly beneficial as more people live in apartments and “will need contact with soil”.

The benefits of growing your own food, knowing its origin and growing produce organically were further discussed:

“...people are getting quite worried about the generalities in our food labelling these days and the way so many foodstuffs under the big supermarket chain names are imported and grown under unknown conditions. Of course the price makes people forget to check the origins.

2.1.3 Child friendly communities

Several submissions saw that community gardens can play a powerful role in shaping the ACT as a child friendly city. In a physical context, they provide children with the opportunity to engage with and explore their natural environment and the chance to learn about flora, fauna and gardening. Children can also develop new skills and learn about healthy lifestyle choices and nutrition through helping to grow food in the community gardens.

The Child Friendly Cities Initiative was begun in 1996 as a response to the resolution passed during the second UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) where it was declared “...the well-being of children is the ultimate indicator of a healthy habitat, a democratic society and good governance”.

Community gardens give children the opportunity to connect with their community and foster a sense of belonging. Through playing an active role in the tending of the gardens, children can develop a sense of responsibility, self confidence and cooperation, all important parts of their social development.

ACTCOSS noted there is no specific mention in the Discussion Paper of children or young people and their particular requirements.

Online survey comments on child friendly communities:

Online respondents saw significant benefits for children to be involved in community gardening and build an understanding of how their food is grown:

“...my children love nothing better than going out to pull up carrots or beets, they appreciate what they have more than other children who are not exposed to how their food is produced.

“...I would love to have one in my area – Franklin is a lovely place to live with plenty of parkland. Our block is small – we have two children and a courtyard block. I already grow some basics but would love to have my own space to take the children to on the weekends so that we could grow more of our own food. The benefits are huge!

2.1.4 Food security

Many submissions noted the increasing awareness of issues around food security, local food production and healthy eating options. Several submissions stressed the importance of growing some of Canberra’s food locally to address future food security issues. Community gardens were seen as a means to increase awareness about local food security and healthy eating options as well as providing the opportunity for increased local food production.

Local food production was also seen as a proactive way to alleviate some of the health detriments of poverty for people living in the ACT, as well as promote healthy behaviours and the development of valuable skills. It was also seen as a productive and effective use of available urban space.

Online survey comments on food security:

Respondents mentioned the ground swell of demand within the community for any activity that is linked to sustainability. Community gardens were seen as a local means to address concerns about food security, reduce food miles, carbon footprint and the rising cost of living:

“...there should be one in every suburb, with the peak oil situation, vegetables and fruit are going to become more expensive and many people would rather not eat pesticide laden food.

“...Yes, with the lack of space now on the average suburban block it is absolutely essential to provide a place for people to grow food and socially interact. It takes approximately 100square metres to keep one person in vegetables (except potatoes) for a year. This need for growing space may not be apparent at the moment but in time people will want to grow their own food.”

“...If they are seriously about this being an important part of the Canberran future then all gardens should be PERMANENT and have room to EXPAND into the future as food prices rise. The government should also be looking very hard at permanent farming projects (amongst others such as aquaculture) in the surrounding district to further support the city into the future.”

2.2 Future locations considerations

2.2.1 Collocation opportunities and benefits

Strong support was expressed in submissions for the collocation of community gardens with other community facilities. Woden Community Service supported the idea of looking at opportunities to collocate with other community facilities, such as a school site or existing community facility. ACT Greens suggested that aged care sites could be considered as a possible location where residents may benefit from the garden without being the gardeners. Benefits were also discussed for collocating in areas of disadvantage, where there is higher density residential development or where there is an absence of other neighbourhood facilities, which would encourage interaction among residents.

“...it would be a waste of money to put such gardens in affluent suburbs where people have enough space to build their own garden.

“...would love to see a community garden in every Canberra suburb where practicable.”

2.2.2 Collocation with schools

There were divergent responses to the Discussion Paper’s proposal that as a first preference a government school site should be investigated as a possible location for a community garden. The need for collaborative partnerships between the school and community garden groups was seen as critical. Submissions were concerned about the safety and security of school students, staff and premises, and the management of access onto school sites by the wider community:

“...locating community gardens in schools pose potential safety concerns in relation to any public access. The ACT Greens suggested that school sites not be considered as first preference for location and this ranking preference be removed as part of the location criteria.

“...COGS supports this approach and can point to existing successful examples in Canberra.

“...benefits for locating with schools included providing a great opportunity for parents and children to grow food together along with other members of the community.

“...establishing community gardens on school sites will utilise the grounds better, provide a link between the school and the general community.

The experience of negotiating locating a community garden at an existing government school was mentioned by several submissions “...once the process...has been established and a format created for other groups to follow”.

Online survey comments on collocation with schools:

Comments from respondents differed about the appropriateness and practicality of collocating a community garden with a school, including:

“...(there are) issues with people in community gardens being near school kids if the garden they use is in or around a school.

“...each garden's board should have careful membership terms for each member and be allowed to do basic background checks especially if located in or around a school. They should also keep records/logs of members time spent at the garden. Again, the online forum would be ideal for setting up and registering members.

“...community gardens should be used by schools to introduce children to agriculture and green activities.

“...it is unfair to take land from a school, when it will not be available for the school's benefit.

“...schools could help maintain the site if needed and could use access foods in the school canteens or bake sale events.

2.2.3 Parks and urban open space

Submissions were concerned that community gardens do not replace other forms of open space, such as nature parks or playing fields, in response to the Discussion Paper’s suggested second preference (after investigating school sites) that community gardens should preferably be located in areas zoned as Urban Open Space – Parks and Recreation Zone (PRZ1) in the Territory Plan. Submissions suggested that the careful selection of land on a site-by-site basis within existing public open space could yield useful garden sites in a variety of residential areas and settings. It was noted that “...some parks were simply not appropriate, but others could work well”.

Comments were received about community perceptions about unused and under-used portions of open space and the competing demands placed on parkland. COGS expressed concern that to develop existing parkland into a restricted access community garden could be seen to favour a particular group ahead of the rest of the community.

The ACT Equestrian Association raised concerns that although there is reference to neighbour support for a garden site, too often the open space used for Government Horse Holding Paddocks appears “unused” to a competing potential user (noting that the ACT Government Horse Holdings Paddocks complexes are usually located in the broadacre, hills, ridges and buffer areas).

Further, parkland was seen to be often situated among residential properties where its development into community gardens may raise issues about the appearance of the gardens and lead to complaints (about being a source of vermin, noise, unpleasant odours etc). It was suggested that any objections to a change of use of a portion of a park could be handled by careful site selection, publicity and community liaison:

“...at first sight community gardens seem better located on unused public land rather than in existing public open space within urban areas. To pursue this policy raises difficulties in finding suitable locations in the most heavily populated areas where the demand is also greatest.

Online survey comments collocation on parks and urban open space:

On-line survey respondents were generally supportive of locating community gardens in parks or in other suitable open spaces:

“...an abundance of space in Canberra. What better use for land than to grow fruit and vegetables in a communal way?

“...huge areas of vacant land in Canberra that could be successfully utilised for gardens.

“...community gardens at local parks or urban open sites leaves them more vulnerable to people with bad intentions.

“...urban open spaces that are not currently used as recreation areas.

“...prefer in unused urban open space and not rip up existing local parks.

“...at the side of ‘unused’ (for weekend sport) ovals? Verges, roundabouts, in planter boxes at shopping centres, open space corridors, unleased crown land.

“...strongly agree with community gardens located in urban open space. Not sure about local parks which can provide important recreational space and habitat for local flora and fauna.

2.2.4 Residential development

Submissions supported the provision of community gardens into new neighbourhoods or new higher density residential areas in established suburbs, which do not allow space for private gardens. The ACT Greens submission suggested that community gardens be a requirement in all new residential areas, with developers and relevant government agencies encouraged to integrate community gardens as part of the planning for newly developing suburbs. The Turner Residents Association considered that community gardens would provide opportunity for social interaction among residents in:

“...a concentration of housing types which do not allow space for private gardens.”

“...proximity of a diverse body of flats and apartments.”

“…absence of neighbourhood facilities which would encourage interaction among residents.”

Online survey comments on residential development:

The relationship between new residential developments and community gardens attracted comments from online survey respondents:

“...community gardens should be mandatory for developers and governments planning high rise buildings...an important part of future planning.

“...and without passing on the additional costs to the community.

“...what a great idea as most new areas have huge houses and small yards – too small to grow even a small fruit tree, let alone a useful sized veggie garden.

“...would strongly recommend gardens to be a major part of government housing planning.

“...in areas where the need is greatest, such as low income housing or community housing (to provide skills and opportunities for those in low-socioeconomic situations).

“...encourage retirement village developers and other property developers to set aside suitable space with water available.”

“...all new unit developments should have a community garden...body corporate common ground.

“...installed within developments they can benefit from passive surveillance and a sense of ownership even from the non-gardener residents. Then the fences can be lower and they can benefit more people besides the gardeners because interaction and chance encounters between gardeners and non-gardeners would be easier.

“...for those who rent, or live in any of the newer suburbs, the availability of community gardens will help to make Canberra a more liveable city (and reduce the recent advent of guerrilla gardening, which I am totally against).

Online survey comments – development industry’s involvement:

Respondents to the online survey clearly supported a role for the development industry in the provision of future community gardens in both new suburbs and in redevelopment areas:

“...as part of developers moving to sustainable development community gardens should be seen as a key component of sustainable urban development. Particularly as blocks get smaller and available household land is reduced.

“...worth experimenting seeing if a developer could see the value of providing for a community garden space as a good citizen and as part of the overall plan for a new suburb...also consider planting produce bearing trees into their planting plan.”

“...a great idea as they would be seen as giving back to the community and not just in it for the high returns they are getting back to the community and not just in it for the high returns they are getting.”

“...Yes but with really clear specifications, I know of developers who have put in rain water capture, but have ignored the next step of including plumbing to gardens, laundries or toilets because that wasn't specified in legislation.”

“...and it is happening. Hooray for developers (for a change); and generous spaces at that.”

“...not the gardens themselves, but the necessary land should be available; space should be set aside, though not necessarily developed straight away for this purpose. The community interest has to be there, and in the meantime, the land can be used as open space by the community. If the demand does not eventuate these areas could be converted into local parks.”

“...especially medium/high density developments should have a community garden area on the plan from the start. It is hard to retrofit when people have entrenched ideas about use of the common property, particularly fears about the garden being untidy. Owners Corps will need to institute Rules (formerly Articles) governing the use of the garden.

“...it depends on the scale of the development. If you are talking about a suburban scale development, then yes I think the developers should set aside some land for that purpose near other community facility land.”

“...in the same way as they are required to provide for car parking.”

2.2.5 Suggestions for possible future locations

Submissions suggested a number of possible future sites, which could be seen as indicative of latent demand for local community gardening opportunities, including:

  • Belconnen – Fraser (‘Fraser Fields’ ie behind Fraser Primary School), Florey – alongside and behind ‘Beechwood’ townhouse complex (at 15 John Cleland Cres), Belconnen Totterdell Street – local park with BBQ and seating area
  • Central CanberraInner South – Griffith (near shops next to the Community Hall forming a health and wellbeing focus) and Red Hill (between the ovals of Red Hill Primary and the old people's home in Carnegie Crescent); Inner North – Turner (concept plan for Turner Parkland (Section 25) identified a community garden site)
  • Gungahlin – Old Gold Creek Homestead in Ngunnawal
  • Weston Creek – Fetherston Garden in Weston
  • Woden – generally, particularly Lyons (unused oval) and Lyons early childhood school.

COGS noted that it has been approached to consider managing gardens in Belconnen, Casey (Springbank Rise), Crace, Forde and Hughes.

Online survey suggestions for possible future locations:

Respondents also made suggestions for possible future locations included:

  • Belconnen – Belconnen around Totterdell Street, particularly alongside the disused bus lane parallel to Joynton Smith Drive; Hawker if there was appropriate land available
  • Woden – old Torrens oval, old Pearce oval, Lyons unused oval
  • North Canberra – side of the Downer oval and also the old Watson High School ovals; Haig Park or along the Sullivan Creek corridor for apartment dwellers to be able to use; rezone portion of unleased CZ6 land in north Watson to PRZ1 and devote a portion of it to a community garden and another portion to a local neighbourhood park
  • Civic – in Glebe Park
  • South Canberra – between Yarralumla and the Lake Burley Griffin.

2.3 Site requirements

2.3.1 Physical requirements

Various physical requirements for community gardens were articulated in submissions, including:

  • Water – adequate water supply was seen as essential. There was support to collocate community gardens with structures and roof spaces for potential rainwater collection and storage. Seen as particularly useful for expected future drought years. The ACT Greens supported incentives to facilitate the use of non-potable water for community garden use that meets environmental health standards for food production.
  • Soil – assessment of soil quality through the Environment Protection Unit, including geotechnical examination as well as examining for asbestos.
  • Topography – topography suitable for a garden without needing major earthworks.
  • Drainage – sites with adequate or easily achievable drainage.
  • Sunlight – sites with full sunlight for at least 5-6 hours per day.
  • Trees – sites where the garden beds can avoid existing trees are preferred.
  • Public toilets – where possible, community gardens should be located close to accessible bathrooms.
  • Allotment size – would have a significant role in decision making with regard to time spent travelling to the garden.

ACTCOSS noted the discussion paper included issues for consideration around the protection of sites which may have significance to the Aboriginal community.

Online survey comments on physical requirements:

Comments were made that current community gardens were seen as being too remote from where they are needed. Other issues raised about physical site requirements included:

  • Soil – community gardens are seen as a great way to repair degraded land.
  • Supporting infrastructure –is needed for a proper community garden (e.g. toilets, meeting areas, demonstration areas, cooking facilities such as a brick oven etc).
  • Plot size – Generally too small; one respondent mentioned the inadequacy of their current plot with 3m x 1.5m dimensions.

2.3.2 Access

Many submissions identified that it is important that Canberra’s community gardens are accessible for people of all ages, including children and young people. ACTCOSS recommended that the community groups in charge of the gardens be strongly encouraged to invite the wider community to participate as much as possible by:

  • being close to public transport – people who do not own a vehicle, live in outer suburbs, work irregular hours or are experiencing disadvantage in other ways can be prevented by inadequate transport from accessing community facilities, including community gardens
  • having bike racks as important public amenities to community gardens
  • welcoming visitors – COGS always welcomes visitors to its gardens when gardeners are present; however, there are limitations on the number of visits and visitors imposed by the requirements of public liability insurance.

COGS advised that a survey they conducted in conjunction with the University of Canberra in 2011 indicated that most people drive to their current COGS garden.

Online survey comments on access:

Survey respondents identified the importance a community garden being located locally, within easy access of most gardeners.

“...it is really important to make community gardens accessible – either within walking or cycling distance or easily accessible via public transport – given that one would be carrying tools, produce.

“...fit it in round regular activities, between home and work... convenient to stop by and work on it, to pick to eat for my lunch or dinner, or for mid-week watering being a key issue for plot-holders in warmer months or whatever!”

“...within a 3 km radius only.

“...preferred something closer than the 4.25km – but I'm not changing now as I've put too much money and effort into my Charnwood plot.”

“...I wouldn't go far to access a garden...travel, even a short distance, could make the garden plot a chore. I'd like to be able to look in easily for 5 mins after a 2 minute walk.

“...process of downsizing our family home, should our next home not have a garden – our present one is very large and productive – would like it to be within walking or cycling distance.”

“...don't have a car; proximity to public transport would be desirable.

“...disability accessible...limited mobility (bad knee).”

“....within a 5 minute walk would be ideal – much further and it's too far to walk for a lettuce at 6pm on a week night – as I work full time and have a dependent child, I rarely feel as though I have time to walk or bike to my garden although it's quite close.”

“...distance greatly reduces the convenience of a garden.”

2.3.3 Disability friendly design

Submissions stressed the importance of community gardens being accessible for all people, including those with limited mobility. COGS also supported the principle that sites be accessible for people with a disability. Although COGS has never conducted a professional review of individual gardens to consider whether access is available for the disabled, it would welcome support from the ACT Government to carry out an evaluation program to determine gardens’ suitability for disabled access and likely financial help if alterations to garden infrastructure are recommended.

All pathways should be designed with wheelchair, scooter and walker accessibility as a priority, with ramps in convenient locations for people with limited mobility or parents with prams.

“...design of sites to include access to a wide range of community members, such as raised beds for older persons or people experiencing mobility issues, paths for people with prams.

“...a community garden with a disability focus or commitment to accessibility/mentoring would therefore be fantastic.

“...all gardens, not just community gardens, have inherent accessibility issues (e.g. boggy or muddy paths, tree roots, long grass, steep slopes) which may make it difficult to provide full access for all people with a disability.

“...as a person with a disability, a community garden could be of enormous benefit for me to feel more included within my community; and help people with more serious physical and intellectual disabilities coming out of high school continue on their horticultural skills.

2.3.4 Fencing

There were divergent views about the need for community gardens in Canberra to be securely fenced and gated, including:

“...community gardens have to be fenced or otherwise they can be too easily trashed and fruit and veggies stolen or damaged.

“...COGS is strongly of the view that community gardens should be fenced, even though it may be argued that doing so works against their perception as land for community use. Experience has taught us that unfenced gardens are subject to vandalism and theft, and to pests such as rabbits and kangaroos.

“...there are insurance implications for the garden licencee if gardens are unfenced and anybody can enter at any time...no items of value should be kept on the garden property to encourage thieves.

“...COGS considers that the 2.3 metre high fence of the type used by schools provides the best deterrent to break-and-enter crimes, is tidier, last longer, is less intrusive and does not restrict bird flight paths.”

“...Holder Gardens is an example where even though the site is fenced and the shed locked theft is high of both tools and equipment from the sheds and plants and produce from the gardens...fences make no difference. The thieves cut the fences. We have at least one a year at Holder, the latest two weeks ago.

“...I would not have a garden at any of the sites unless it was fenced, sorry but that’s just the way it is.”

“...the location of fences around community gardens near any school facility should not impact on the general day to day operations of the school.”

Online survey comments on fencing:

Divergent views were expressed by respondents about the need for fencing at community gardens. Supporting the need for fencing were comments that community gardens must be fenced to prevent vandalism, theft and animal invasion (by rabbits, possums and kangaroos). It was mentioned that theft of produce was a very de-motivating experience for gardeners:

“...nothing is more heartbreaking than seeing a ready to harvest crop of pumpkins or melons destroyed by vandals out for fun L.”

“...need policing against thieves and vandals – otherwise people will just give up.

“...fencing is a significant additional expense but unfortunately necessary.”

“...other solutions to deter vandalism i.e. growing sharp hedges, lighting, fake cameras or placing physical obstacles.”

“...not much point growing anything without some protection – toil all year only to lose the crop at the end of summer!

It was suggested that fences could be lower when community gardens are installed within developments and can benefit from passive surveillance and a sense of ownership even from the non-gardener residents.

“...although it would be worth trying less security to see if it works.”

“...exception would be where there is very strong local ownership and passive surveillance such as within an owners’ corporation. Then the fencing need only be low, sufficient to deter very casual human interference and possums/rabbits.”

“...If there is concern about animals disrupting the growth then a picket type fence would be most visually pleasing.”

“...overall feeling or vibe of a community garden shouldn't be overwhelmingly focussed on security. Appropriate location; good design and layout including entrances; materials and decorative features of fencing and gates can all be used to maximise security and protection while maintaining overall positive aesthetic and social effects on the neighbourhood.”

“...perhaps they could be made more attractive with vines growing up them. Also getting young people involved in the garden (those who might be vandalising)?? If they have a vested interest in the garden and realise the benefits, they will be much less likely to damage the gardens.”

“...without a general point of contact between the public and the garden members, the locked gate and fence are quite alienating. If garden members could agree on regular hours for an open garden, i.e. no locked gate, members of the public are welcome to come and ask questions of the gardeners, that could go some way towards redressing the issue.”

By contrast, the practicality of no fences was also discussed:

“...community gardens I am familiar with are unfenced and minimal problems arise. The fact they have to be fenced in Canberra is symptomatic of the breakdown of community that is Canberra and needs to be addressed and community gardens is a way of doing this.”

“...employ a caretaker for each garden, such that the garden is open each day to the public? No-one will agree to funding that.”

“...look at the St Kilda one which has fences but is open to the public all day.”

“...garden may need to be locked over night though.”

2.3.5 Access during daylight hours

The issue posed in the Discussion Paper and online survey of access by the wider community during daylight hours provoked divergent views. COGS was concerned if there was a requirement to unlock gates at dawn whether gardeners were working in the garden or not “...that it would become an onerous, if not impossible, chore to ensure somebody opens the garden gates at dawn every day”. The issue of an on-site caretaker managing daytime access was also raised. The need to differentiate access for community gardens located on public land and ones that come under different tenure/management arrangements on private land was discussed:

“...in general, access should be available during daylight hours on community gardens on public land, however this should be determined on a case by case basis to ensure adequate security. For example the COGS community garden located at the Cotter is not visible from any roads and an open door policy may lead to loss of equipment and damage to gardens. Vandalism and theft has been an ongoing concern for many COGS gardens.

“...for larger gardens there could be an opportunity to house a caretaker on the property or have regular security guards patrol the area. Night lighting for security may also be a concern for surrounding residents.

Online survey comments on access during daylight hours:

The question of providing access to the wider community during daylight hours generated much comment with online survey respondents. Many observed the challenges of achieving a balance between the need for security and the avoidance of exclusiveness; further noting that the management of wider access is dependent on the garden’s specific location and current levels of vandalism and theft. Current insurance policies were also raised as limiting wider public access.

Many respondents discussed how different managed responses may provide some level of access to interested community members and security to gardeners, their activities and produce (e.g. open days, organised tours, workshops, community events, on-site caretaker, volunteer programs), including:

“...yes only if a garden member is present; someone will need to be there whenever the gate is open.

“…ideally YES, in practice difficult. Perhaps access on a regular designated day when a garden member would be present to discuss and supervise (this happens ad hoc now)? Issue of whether the general public should be entitled to harvest produce that they have not helped grow is a separate one.”

 “...if the government had community gardens that were organised and looked after by the government using it as a form of community service when this is warranted I think it would be a good thing to leave it open for less fortunate people to take their pick of the produce.”

In support of the provision of access during daylight hours, comments included:

“...the public should be able to enter. We often give away excess vegetables to passing residents who are interested in what we are doing. We also have local residents who are sometimes interested in helping us when we have a working bee to tidy up the communal plots of herbs etc.

“...look at the St Kilda one which has fences but is open to the public all day.

“...if public spaces were used as in Chippendale in Sydney and plots were community areas rather than ‘my’ space then I don't see security as a problem.

“...I believe if it is a community garden the whole community should have access to enjoy the space.”

“...community organisations responsible for community gardens should encourage the participation of the general public as much as possible. People should feel welcome in community gardens as they are an amenity that should benefit the whole community. More people present on site during the day increases opportunities for surveillance. Also, when more people share at sense of pride and ownership, it encourages greater care and respect for the garden.

Comments not supporting providing access during daylight hours included:

“...it's a silly question – would you let the general public access your house in daylight hours?”

“...no need for access as you can view them from the fence.

“...too much pilfering would occur.

“...how can public access be allowed in gardens which are not in areas which do not have frequent public oversight?.

2.3.6 Passive surveillance

Online survey respondents raised concerns about the opportunity for passive surveillance of community gardens in the ACT, particularly for gardens in more remote locations on the edge of urban Canberra:

“...it depends how 'remote' they are. Gardeners whose plots and produce are ruined by vandals would quite frankly have been prepared to give produce to intruders if that is what they wanted but in fact it seems to be mindless hooliganism at work. If the gardens were in areas right in the community and the community was proudly involving everyone interested I think there would actually be less wilful damage without the need for fencing and lockup.

“...In Brisbane there are several community gardens that do not have fences at all e.g. West End (at least two). One garden is on a verge and the other is on the side of parkland, near a basketball court and playground. It also contained a pizza oven. There were apartments all around and so residents could keep an eye on things.”

2.3.7 Animal keeping

Submissions mentioned that some community gardens in other jurisdictions keep animals such as chickens or fish (for example, the Northey Street Farm in Brisbane); so the Discussion Paper may want to cover aspects of animal keeping (e.g. boundary setbacks) within the community gardens.

Hygiene and health concerns were raised if dogs, cats and other animals are able to wander freely through the gardens.

“...fortunately Australia is free of many animal diseases which trouble other parts of the world (such as rabies). COGS internal rules discourage gardeners from bringing dogs into the gardens; if any are brought in they need to be properly restrained.

2.3.8 Identification of existing users

Submissions supported the need to identify all existing user groups for a proposed site but raised concern that there is no description of a process to ensure this occurs. The ACT Equestrian Association discussed this issue further in their submission:

“...We believe the process of selection involves both your directorate (ESDD), and the directorate managing land in the ACT, which is the Territory and Municipal Services Directorate (TAMS), and the public. We consider it appropriate that the selection guidelines should include reference to the process for ensuring that all current users of a site know of the proposal for use as a community garden, for example by public notification. If TAMS is to develop guidelines for assessment of licence applications those guidelines should include the process for consideration of the interests of all users.

“...public notification should involve not only a website notice, but a process similar to a development application with advertisement in a daily newspaper or the government’s community noticeboard advertisement.

Online survey comments on identification of existing users included:

Respondents raised concern that community gardens should be located in spaces where they will not prevent other beneficial activities (e.g. formal and informal sporting activities) which may utilise the location at a lower intensity per person, but result in utilisation of the space by a much larger number of people.

2.3.9 Aesthetics

Submissions raised concern that to exclude community gardens on the basis of their appearance and place them in out-of-the-way areas means few or no observers for active and passive surveillance. COGS recognised that community gardens can look unkempt and disorderly and may lack an overall coherent appearance, although it is not inevitable that they do and the degree of perceived disorder often is a function of the season.

Online survey comments on aesthetics:

“...let's face it, productive gardens can look a bit ugly! So we must be realistic about ongoing commitment of participants to continue the work of gardening in the face of all weathers, all seasons, pest plagues and vandalism.

2.4 Governance

Submissions stated that the current dominant community garden model is where a community group manages a plot of land (either by dividing into allotments or creating shared gardens) to produce food. The site of the garden is usually fenced and access to the garden controlled. While this model has already proven successful in Canberra, other approaches should not be excluded from the possibility of approval, as appears to be the case for the draft criteria.

COGS welcomed the ACT Government‘s initiative in developing the Discussion Paper on Community Gardens as a means of placing arrangements for community gardens in the ACT onto a more rigorous policy basis than is the case at present. It was noted that many of the community gardens and arrangements currently in place have developed on an ad hoc basis over many years.

Future demand for the effective delivery community gardening models was noted in response to increased population densities in both newly developing suburbs and inner city areas as increasing numbers of people are seeking the opportunity to garden outside of their own properties.

It was suggested that larger membership organisations like COGS lessen the chances of the failure of an individual garden as they are able, at least in the short term, to offer cross-subsidisation from other gardens to a garden that might be struggling.

2.4.1 Possible management models

A number of submissions suggested the exploration of alternative management models to community gardens, noting that various approaches have different strengths and appropriateness with different communities, including:

  • allow flexibility in the models allowed for shared food production in Canberra rather than assuming that a model that is familiar now is the only workable option
  • an open garden not based on a membership model and the logistics of managing this approach
  • allotments (like in the UK) where the government provides plots for individuals to grow their own in the way they choose
  • owners corporations under the Unit Titles (Management) Act to establish community gardens on common property for residents use; and set up a grant program to support owners Ccorporations
  • service clubs (such as Rotary) facilitating a 'community development approach model’ where the ACT Government makes some suitable land and resources available and then leaves it to service club (under licence) to get it up and running.

It was noted that COGS successfully implements a policy that produce grown within the gardens cannot be sold but can be freely given away or traded for other produce. However, there are cases where selling of produce could be a better policy, such as community gardens established for recent refugee arrivals or plots that can act as a stepping stone to larger farming enterprises outside the urban area.

“...rather than being small, regimented garden plots, community gardens need to be more artistic, convivial, communal creations. Current community garden structures only cater for 20 people. A shared community garden often has a social network 20 times bigger, usually around 300 – 400 people.”

Online survey comments on possible management models:

Comments made as part of the online survey suggested that an independent organisation apart from COGS should facilitate the access and management of community gardens in the ACT. It was seen to be beneficial to allow use by groups such as newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers who could benefit from the healthy activity and produce.

Several observations were made that as there are not enough gardens, COGS should not shoulder the burden of administering /developing/ advocating for them.

“...other models as well as the COGS one operating in Canberra so that community gardens are not all elitist. The next 10 years will see an energy crunch and local food production will become a necessity rather than a luxury. Begin planning NOW!

“...it is run quite tightly by COGS. They are ensuring that people get a decent opportunity to have a go in a garden. There is reasonable churn in the gardens allowing people to come through. It is like providing sports fields for people who like sport. I just happen to like gardening – and I bet it is a lot less in maintenance for a garden considering the COGS members do all that work.

“...it would be nice to have at least one community garden that was not devoted to organic gardening. Most of the food, flowers and nursery plants imported or raised in Canberra have been raised using fertilizers and chemical plant protection that is not part of organic gardening. Why should people who want to continue to garden as they have when they had their own garden be deprived of this opportunity because it is not PC?

“...A new sort of design that includes a common area between suburban blocks to be managed jointly as vegetable garden space was proposed. This would need a new use and management covenant. Also adjoining apartment buildings. A model for new public housing?

2.4.2 Licence term

Submissions proposed a variety of terms for the ACT Government licence to manage community gardens on unleased Territory land. One suggestion was a three year licence term with the capacity to be subsequently reviewed and extended. COGS suggested a minimum of ten years, but would prefer to see as much certainty as possible for the users of a garden which adequately reflects gardeners’ investment of time, money and effort.

ACT Equestrian Association advised licences be issued for at least 10 years with an option to renew (see further comment under ‘Permanent/Temporary’).

Online survey comments on licence term:

There was variation between respondents about appropriate licence terms, varying from short term (1-3 years), medium term (5-10 years) and long term (20 years or more).

“...each group's licence should be reviewed after three years to ensure they are using the land effectively. If they are not making good use of the land, it should be possible for another group to license use of that land.

“...5 years. They need a significant amount of time to be established, but also room to be changed for improvements.

“...at least 10 years. It takes a number of years to build up soil quality– a shorter licence is not compatible with this activity.

“...things change – but I think 10 years is long enough for the community and gives the ACT government some freedom to plan/react to changing requirements within areas.

“...> 20 years! It takes a long time to set up a good garden, especially if it includes fruit trees. It would be a terrible shame to undo all that work when gardens and especially trees can be productive for decades.”

2.4.3 Permanent/temporary

Many submissions stated a preference for community gardens to be regarded as permanent facilities. This is particularly to reflect and recognise the level of work and commitment given to establish and maintain the garden by the gardening community. However, some submissions commented that, as with any other land use, as community needs change over time community gardens need to be able to adapt.

COGS considered it appropriate that the beneficiary of the licence make some contribution to restoring land to the extent it is financially able. This could be achieved by the licence for a community garden including a provision for the government to recover from the organisation that is granted the garden licence the cost of restoring the land to the extent of any funds that the organisation holds in relation to that particular garden. This issue will have to be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Providing tenure guarantees for a suggested 10 year period would allow community gardens to plan with an acceptable level of certainty and with a reasonable expectation of a return for their labours.

ACT Equestrian Association advised permanency of a location is an important factor for community groups in development of future plans and maintaining long term interest of members. “While there is always a latent concern about the longevity of a community organisation, a short term licence does not provide for the development of smooth organisation in the group and for the group to see a result for its efforts. Obvious success in a community garden is likely to lead to ongoing success of the group. So we would advocate licences be issued for at least 10 years with an option to renew.

Online survey comments on permanent or temporary:

Respondents were divided in their consideration that community gardens should be regarded as either permanent or temporary facilities.

Permanent use was seen to be supporting the commitment to community effort, provide investment in local food security and long term tree crops.

“...The successful establishment of a community garden takes some effort and time. It needs to be a permanent use of land as it takes time to build up soil fertility, earthworm activity, create compost heaps, establish rows of berries etc. As a community garden plot holder you want to know that all the hard work you put in is a long term investment and you can count on harvesting from you plot/community garden for a long time.

“...should been seen as a valuable local investment.

“...setting aside land for community gardens as a permanent land use in support of food security. The group using the land for this purpose could change...”

“...a permanent fixture in our lives to change people’s attitude to food, we need people securing their own food security and reducing food miles for commercially grown regional food being sold in Sydney wholesale produce markets and transported back to the ACT.

“...continuity of community gardens should be the default position of the government.

“...a community garden should be seen as essential infrastructure, a necessary part of a community environment like parks, sportsfields and community centres.”

Regarding community gardens as a temporary use was seen by some respondents to provide the opportunity to respond to changing needs:

“...temporary, but with a long and renewable lease; If there aren't people in the community to support the garden it should be returned to regular land use.

“...temporary, only because needs may shift, and it may make sense to move gardens around.

“...if the need becomes great to resume the land it should be possible to do so especially if the garden is not being used effectively and could be used in a manner far more beneficial to the community.”

“...temporary might be OK if site was available for say five years.”

“...I don't think it really matters. If a better use for the land came up, another garden should be created at a new, nearby location.

Further, it was noted that future development sites could be used temporarily for community gardens:

“...I know the ACT Government views vacant land as a future revenue opportunity to sell to developer mates but Canberra needs community and community gardens are one way of doing this and should be viewed much valuably than as potential development sites.

“...but some land is ‘vacant’, so shorter terms would make much more land available. Notice of resumption for other purposes would need to be 2-3 years in advance of the closure of a community garden.

“...many gardens exist on unused/abandoned plots of land anyway. I accept that at any time the government may take back the land if something bigger is happening. However, integrating and maintaining such gardens becomes more important the more that development takes place.

2.4.4 Government funding support

Several submissions proposed that the ACT Government should establish a dedicated community grants program for the establishment and support for community gardens.

The COGS submission observed that from its experience, for a new garden to be successfully developed and have strong community support, there also needs to be seed-funding to help establish the garden. “It is unrealistic to expect a community group to raise the $30,000–$50,000 needed for fencing, water connections and basic infrastructure of a garden before it may apply for a garden licence”. While grants have been made from time to time for community gardens, the process is ad hoc and there is no dedicated program of support for community gardens.

Online survey comments on government funding support:

Many respondents saw the ACT Government as the central enabler of the establishment of new community gardens in Canberra providing financial support to not-for-profit community organisations (such as COGS). It would also provide support to make community gardens socially inclusive (especially for those with limited financial resources, for example public housing tenants, retirees, elderly, young families, refugees):

“...provision and support and funding for community gardens, like any publicly available infrastructure, should be a responsibility of the ACT Government and not developers. The offset funding policies between the ACT Government and developers isn't transparent to the public.

Another role for Government was suggested to provide legislative protection of some sort for people working in the gardens and for any visitors.

Respondents mentioned that funding support should be targeted, such as in areas where there is public housing or to provide more encouragement for strata title organisations, to create community gardens for residents within their common property (e.g. a small start up grant, professional advice for site selection and initial set up).

It was suggested that funding support should only be for establishment and infrastructure costs, with member fees covering ongoing operational costs. Further funding support could be directed at specific infrastructure to assist in setting up a garden, including fencing and gates, water supply, access road (if required), watertanks, fencing and treated wood for garden beds. Interested community members could build their own beds and purchase their own soil. Some suggested further support activities that are undertaken in other jurisdictions by councils, such as mechanical digging to prepare the site:

“...the ACT Government installed the fence and gate as we were victim to repeated robberies and vandalism which was heart breaking and expensive for us. As a new garden, we had not built up any reserve funds. This has been one area of the best kind of help from the government.”

“...Obviously, the area would need to be fenced and gated at a minimum. If the ACT Government did this and dumped a truckload of organic compost and some sleepers, I am certain the community interested would band together to set it all up. Do it! Think of the awesome media attention the ACT Government would receive and at such a small cost!”

“...I appreciate the longstanding support of the ACT Government for community gardens on unleased Territory land.

2.5 Implementation and management

2.5.1 Future involvement

It was observed that many people may have an interest in participating in community gardens but may not have the social connections to form the group needed to begin a project (as set out in the Discussion Paper in C.15: Sustainable garden membership). Further, given the amount of financial support required from those wishing to undertake a community gardens project (as set out in C.16: Financial capacity), it may be impractical to expect Canberrans on low incomes to ‘demonstrate a sustainable financial capacity’.

ACTCOSS recommended that the ACT Government be more proactive about engaging people on lower incomes by offering further financial support and encouraging community groups to partner interested parties and act as a liaison, at least in the beginning stages of the relationships.

Online survey comments on future involvement:

Online survey respondents felt that it was important in order to encourage future involvement in gardens that each garden should have a sign providing information about the garden (e.g. telling people what the fenced off area is and how it works, how many plots exists, if there are any vacancies and how interested persons can secure a plot (contact details, waiting lists).

“...no idea what to do about this generation's inability to accept personal responsibility, i.e. the stifling burden of insurance.

2.5.2 Information portal

There was broad support for a centralised source of information about community gardens on an ACT Government website. Suggestions about the scope of information to be provided ranged from how to set up a garden, to approval requirements and processes, and public education programs.

It was suggested that if suitable sites for community gardens were included on ACTMAPi (the ACT Government interactive mapping service), there might be additional community interest and support for establishing gardens.

2.5.3 Demand for community gardens

Many submissions anticipated an increased demand for community gardens as the nature of the city changes. The increasing population densities in both newly developing suburbs and inner city areas means that more people are seeking the opportunity to garden outside of their own properties.

As an indication of demand for people to become involved in community gardening, COGS stated that it receives from 5 to 10 requests per week for plots in COGS gardens. COGS said it cannot meet this level of demand.

Many people raised the lengthy time on waiting lists. COGS stated that many of the people sourcing information from the COGS website may become discouraged as there is an extensive waiting list of more than 200 people with waiting times of more than two years in some gardens. One submission specified that “...I'm about 20th on the waiting list of the two closest gardens – Cook and Kaleen”.

COGS has received requests for gardening plots reveal strong demand from people living in the inner north and Gungahlin. COGS is currently looking to double the number of plots in both the Cotter and Mitchell gardens, and has made enquiries of TAMS for garden start-up land in Monash and Watson.

Online survey comments on demand for community gardens:

Respondents to the on-line survey stated:

“...I have been on the COGS's waiting list for almost a year to get a plot at the Mitchell community garden!!! There are not enough community gardens in the area; that is certain.

“...there is an overwhelming demand at the moment, we are on the waiting list and have not been given an expected date for access to a garden plot within an existing garden. The gardens we have applied for are not in Curtin, our home suburb, but further a field in Cotter, Weston and Kambah; which increases the pool of people wanting the plot and makes it less workable in terms of food miles spent travelling to the garden.”

“...BUILD MORE AND HURRY UP ABOUT IT. There are so many fields of vacant unproductive land around the Holt Kippax Higgins Macgregor areas.”

“...They seem to be growing in popularity. Whether this is merely cyclical or a permanent part of life remains to be seen. I suspect the latter.”

“...there does not currently appear to be any process for prioritising access to community garden plots by those whose circumstances preclude gardening at their home, in particular renters (of houses and units), but also possibly owners of units.”

“...we were part of a community garden in Dickson. When we moved to Cook we kept working on it for one season but found the 15 minute drive was just too far and at the end of the season we gave it up. We are currently on the waiting list for the Cook community garden but it is a long list.”

2.6 Further urban gardening opportunities

A number of submissions noted that the discussion paper did not address other forms of urban gardening, such as verge plantings, rooftop gardens (e.g. City of Sydney) and city farms. COGS also mentioned it has seen increasing interest in gardening on verges and other remnant urban spaces (or ‘guerrilla gardening’) . Other forms of urban gardening opportunities identified included:

  • Verges and other small spaces in streets – edible gardens could be managed by individuals or small groups, not just a community group, to allow for small shared food gardens “to come and go as circumstances changed and new ideas emerged”. There was a further suggestion that government could consider shared ownership of verges with property owners to provide an incentive for garden development, which the owner could also make available to those with no garden space.
  • Rooftop gardens – apartment buildings, commercial and retail sites (e.g. malls) could be considered for community gardening. Staff or residents are also more easily organised than individuals throughout the community coming to a 'third party' space.
  • Street gardens – businesses with physical premises be involved in establishing and managing with edible plantings in planter boxes and hanging baskets.
  • ‘Guerilla gardening’ – ad hoc gardening actions to improve the quality of remnant or neglected urban spaces.
  • Kitchen gardens in schools – the effectiveness of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program was noted with nearly 70,000 students participating nationally. More than 200,000 people in Canberra are connected to a school community.
  • City farms – provide a community meeting place for demonstration education and advocacy programs to support wider sustainability agendas of food security, climate change, community resilience and water use. May also include cafe and shops to sell produce. COGS advised that it has joined other interested groups to support the development of a city farm in Canberra (refer http://canberracityfarm.wikispaces.com/).
  • Sustainable futures showcase – submissions noted that Canberra is ideally positioned to significantly expand its eco-tourism industry (over 100,000 school students visit annually), including through developing demonstration sites which may include partnerships with existing community gardens.
  • Urban farmers – land on the outskirts of the Canberra’s towns needs to be made available to for urban farmers to grow commercial crops.

Online survey comments on further urban gardening opportunities included:

Online respondents also suggested a broadening of the focus to wider urban gardening activities. Many different opportunities were identified for further activities in urban gardening, for example planting fruit or nut trees on verges. It was suggested that whole streets in every suburb could be turned into productive gardens and grow fruit trees for all to benefit from and harvest. However, it was suggested the government's permitted plant lists and design guidelines, which currently inhibit this outcome, should be changed to actively promote edible plantings in new areas and in older areas where communities agree.

Facilitation of a 'garden share' program, would provide a platform to pair people with unused or under-utilised backyards (due, for example, to lack of interest or to health reasons that prevent the maintenance of large sized yard) with people who would like space to garden in but have none/not enough. Garden share should not replace community gardens, but would allow for better use of existing gardens, management of horticultural pests potentially left uncontrolled, and building of community connections.

3 Online survey results

An online survey was available on the Government’s Time to Talk website. There were 140 respondents to the survey with a high response rate (refer table below. Many respondents took the opportunity to provide further detailed comments during the survey (Questions 7-15) as well as providing detailed further comments to the open question (Question 16).

Online survey results

No.

On-line Survey Question

Response / comment rate

1

What is your gender?

140 / -

2

What is your age?

140 / -

3

Which suburb do you currently live in?

140 / -

4

Do you currently use a community garden in the ACT?

139 / -

5

Which community garden do you currently use?

50 / -

6

Would you be interested in using or continuing to use a community garden within the next five years?

138 / -

7

Would you prefer a community garden to be close to your home in easy walking and cycling distance?

129 / 35

8

Are you prepared to travel outside your suburb to use a community garden?

127 / 41

9

Consideration should be given to a new community garden being located within (a) Government school sites and (b) local parks or urban open space?

129 / 41

10

Many community gardens in Canberra now have high security fences and locked gates in order to prevent vandalism, theft and animal invasion. This should continue with new community gardens.

129 / 52

11

Should the general public be able to access community gardens during daylight hours?

130 / 67

12

Do you think the ACT Government should regard a community garden as a permanent or temporary use of land?

126 / 48

13

How long should community gardens be licensed to use public land?

108 / 53

14

Should the ACT Government support/contribute to the establishment of community gardens in existing neighbourhoods?

127 / 58

15

Should developers be required to provide community gardens in new development areas?

127 / 54

16

Is there anything else you would like to say about community gardens in the ACT?

93 / 93

Characteristics of respondents (Questions 1 and 2)

Of 140 respondents 63.6% were female and 36.4% were male. The predominant age group was people aged 60-69 years old (31% or 44 people), then equally people aged 30-39 and 40-49 (18% or 25 people each) and 50-59 year olds (16.4% or 23 people). Seventeen people aged 20-29 also responded.

Current place of residence (Question 3)

Suburbs where more people responded to this survey lived in Cook and O’Connor (6), followed by five in each Curtin, Kambah, Lyons and Watson. Cook, Curtin, Kambah and O’Connor all have community gardens.

Existing community gardeners (Question 4)

Fifty respondents (41%) stated that they currently use a community garden. Cook was the community garden with the highest participation rate (10). Over 50% of respondents use Holder, Mitchell, O’Connor, Kambah and Charnwood gardens. The following locations were:

Demand (Question 6)

Existing community garden

Responses

Existing community garden

Responses

Charnwood

5

Kambah

5

Cook

10

Kingston

1

Cotter

2

Limestone Ave, Ainslie

1

Dickson

3

Mitchell

5

Erindale

2

Oaks Estate

2

Holder

5

O’Connor

5

Kaleen

4

 

 

Total responses

50

 

 

Almost 85% of respondents were interested in using or continuing to use community gardens within the next five years. However, no inferences can be made in relation to who they are. Assuming 43.8% (84.8% - 41.0%) ‘yes’ response is received from current non-participants (refer Question no. 4), a substantial demand spike can be expected within five years for community gardening in the ACT.

Proximity of location – Ease of access (Questions 7 and 8)

Almost 98% would prefer a community garden to be close to home and in easy walking and cycling distance. (Q7 – 35 comments, Q8 41 additional comments)

Although 55% stated that they were prepared to travel outside their suburb to use a community garden, this was qualified with travel to neighbouring suburbs only, or between home and work (‘mid-week watering being a key issue for plot holders in warmer months’). There was some variation in what would be an acceptable distance to travel – ‘Within a 3km radius’, or ‘2 minute walk’.

Co-location opportunities (Question 9)

Over 50% of respondents strongly agreed and 26% agreed that consideration should be given to a new community garden on a government school site (41 additional comments), while 63% strongly agreed and 25% agreed consideration should be given to a new community garden at local parks or urban open space.

Limited access - fences and gates (Question 10)

Over 43% of respondents strongly agreed and 33% agreed that community gardens should continue to have high security fences and locked gates in order to prevent vandalism, theft and animal invasion. (52 additional comments)

Wider community access (Question 11)

There was a divergent response to this question, with 40% of respondents saying the general public should have access during daylight hours compared with 31% saying there should not be access and 31% undecided. (67 additional comments).

Permanent or temporary? (Question 12)

Almost 90% respondents (112) wanted to see gardens regarded by the ACT Government as a permanent use of land, while 20 suggested temporary. (48 additional comments)

Appropriate licence term? (Question 13)

While 63% of respondents considered a 20 year licence term for community gardens to use public land would be appropriate, over 33% suggested 10 years, and almost 8% suggested less than five years. (53 additional comments)

ACT Government support (Question 14)

Over 95% of respondents thought that the ACT Government should provide support or contribute to the establishment of community gardens. (58 further comments)

Requirement for developers to provide community garden (Question 14)

Over 84% agreed that developers be required to provide community gardens in new development areas, with 10% undecided on this question. (54 further comments)

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