Guide to Community Gardens in the ACT

Guide to Community Gardens in the ACT

Policy and Site Selection Criteria


Community gardens are an increasingly popular community-based activity for growing food collectively and locally. Community gardens provide an opportunity for many different members of a community to engage in gardening activities to grow vegetables and fruit for personal use and enjoyment with likeminded gardeners. Research suggests the increase in popularity of community gardening is largely due to a desire for gardeners to share their recreational interests and to combine their production efforts in a healthy, social and sharing environment.To some extent, the gardening community may also be seeking to take action on issues such as sustainable living, climate change, food security, food miles and organically grown food.

The popularity of community gardens, both internationally and in Australia, is reflected in the growing demand for community garden sites in the ACT. A number of community gardens currently operate in the ACT. Some existing community gardens are located on the edge of urban areas, while others are in established neighbourhoods, such as at schools and church grounds. As our urban form continues to change, with an increase in higher density living and smaller blocks with smaller backyards, it is becoming increasingly important to provide space where the community can grow fresh produce.

The Territory Plan, which is the ACT’s key statutory planning document, considers community gardens to be a type of ‘outdoor recreation facility’ and defines a ‘community garden’ as:

... the use of land for the cultivation of produce primarily for personal use by those people undertaking the gardening, including demonstration gardening or other environmental activities which encourage the involvement of schools, youth groups and citizens in gardening activities.

Purpose of this guide

The ACT Government has developed this guide in response to growing requests for suitable land for community gardens to be set aside in both new and established neighbourhoods. The guide will promote quality outcomes for the siting of community gardens and for the consideration of applications for these gardens. It is anticipated this guide will be used by community organisations seeking to establish community gardens and government officials determining if proposed sites are appropriate.

This guide focuses on community garden sites, rather than other forms of urban food production. It provides an overview of the ACT policy context; outline of community gardening practices in the ACT; guidance for proposals for new community gardens; and site selection criteria to be considered when assessing proposed sites for new community gardens.

The ACT Government agencies responsible for community gardens are the Territory and Municipal Services (TAMS) Directorate and the Environment and Planning Directorate (EPD). In most cases, TAMS is responsible for issuing and managing licences or leases for community gardens on unleased land. EPD provides policy guidance on site selection, as well as identifying sites for community gardens in newly developing estates or infill development through concept plans, master plans and estate development plans.

What are the benefits of community gardens?

There are many ways to productively grow food in urban areas, such as city farms, backyard production, verge gardens, roof-top gardens, vertical gardens, commercial horticulture, sensory gardens and aquaculture.

It is essential that community gardens are inclusive spaces that enable a diversity of people to participate in the activity of producing food. Inclusive spaces have equitable access for all members of the community and encourage a sense of safety, belonging and support. Community gardens should be welcoming of all members of the community and encourage a diverse membership base.

Current research findings demonstrate extensive benefits from community gardening for both the wider society and the individual. A number of benefits of community gardens are outlined in Table 1.

  1. Table 1: Benefits of community gardening



  • Connecting with nature
  • Creating social networks
  • Living sustainably
  • Supporting active living—promoting good
    physical and mental health and wellbeing
  • Promoting healthy eating
  • Sourcing affordable fresh food
  • Growing food locally
  • Building resilience and capacity in communities to respond to change
  • Creating social inclusion
  • Creating a sense of community
  • Encouraging active ageing
  • Improving food security
  • Reducing food miles
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
  • Promoting active travel
  • Growing food organically

Like many cities, Canberra is facing the global challenges posed by population growth, climate change and water and energy security. It is increasingly important for Canberra to be a city that makes it easy for people to make more sustainable living choices. By providing the opportunity for community gardens throughout the ACT, the government is encouraging sustainable lifestyle choices. Community gardens allow members to grow their own produce, thus significantly enhancing their food sovereignty, as well as reducing food miles. Members of community gardens also gain an understanding of where their food comes from and the effort it takes to grow and harvest food.

ACT policy context

The following section outlines the ACT Government policy context relating to this guide.

ACT Planning Strategy

The ACT Planning Strategy (2012) identifies a future scenario for Canberra in 2030 that was framed by feedback from consultation with the ACT community. The scenario envisages community gardens and play spaces that provide opportunities for people to connect and feel a sense of belonging in urban areas. These open spaces would form a network of meeting places connected by walking and cycling links.

The ACT Planning Strategy identifies nine strategies, each with associated actions, to achieve the future scenario. Strategies four and five relate to community facilities and community gardens:

  • Strategy 4: ‘Ensure everyone has convenient access to a range of facilities, services and opportunities for social interaction by reinforcing the role of group and local centres as community hubs.’
  • An action to implement this strategy is to retain existing community facilities in established suburbs, while also incorporating new facilities such as community gardens.
  • Strategy 5: ‘Provide vibrant, pleasant urban parks and places for everyone to enjoy by ensuring they are safe and accessible for the most vulnerable in our community.’
  • A short-term action (one to five years) for implementation of this strategy is to further promote and develop opportunities for community gardens.

Territory Plan

The Territory Plan is the key statutory planning document for the ACT. It provides guidance on land uses and their permitted developments as well as development rules and criteria. Community gardens are identified as an ‘outdoor recreation facility’ under the Territory Plan and are currently allowed in several Territory Plan zones. Further information can be found in Appendix A.

The Territory Plan defines community gardens as:

... the use of land for the cultivation of produce primarily for personal use by those people undertaking the gardening, including demonstration gardening or other environmental activities which encourage the involvement of schools, youth groups and citizens in gardening activities.

Crime prevention through environmental design

Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) is an urban design approach that enables crime prevention and addresses perceptions of safety. The ACT Government has incorporated CPTED principles into the Territory Plan as a general code. To ensure the safety and security of community gardens in the ACT, the site selection process should consider the CPTED General Code and design principles.

The four key CPTED principles listed in the general code are:

  • natural surveillance – concentrates on limiting the opportunity for crime by designing spaces and buildings that foster human activity and interaction as well as overlooking of the environment.
  • natural access – focuses on ‘channelling’ the movement of people in the environment either to encourage them into spaces to increase activity and natural surveillance, or to discourage people from entering areas where pedestrian movement is generally not encouraged.
  • territorial reinforcement – relates to developing or maintaining a sense of ownership of a space or development by the community. It encourages a sense of pride in one’s locality and a desire to take care of the environment and others inhabiting the space.
  • target hardening – relates to making it more difficult for criminal activity to occur, as well as increasing the physical security of a site and the perceived risk to the potential offender.

These principles should be considered during the development of new community garden sites to minimise the potential for any criminal activity (such as vandalism or theft) and ensure community garden members feel safe and encouraged to use the site.

Transport for Canberra and Building an Integrated Transport Network – Active Travel

Transport for Canberra (2012) outlines a strategy for transport planning in the ACT to 2031. Transport for Canberra was prepared in conjunction with the ACT Planning Strategy and recognises that the relationships between land use and transport are fundamental to supporting a shift to more sustainable transport and a more sustainable Canberra.

Building an Integrated Transport Network – Active Travel, released by the ACT Government in May 2015, recognises that walking and cycling are essential parts of Canberra’s transport system. The framework outlines how the government can better integrate planning and delivery of active travel initiatives to further encourage and support walking, cycling and riding as part of Canberra’s overall urban planning, transport, health, environment and education systems. Active travel helps prevent lifestyle-related conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression.

AP2: A new climate change strategy and action plan for the ACT

AP2 is the second action plan and update to the ACT Climate Change Strategy 2007–2025: Weathering the Change. It provides a pathway to the Territory’s legislated 2020 greenhouse gas reduction targets and a set of actions to progress the strategy. The purpose of AP2 is to support the community’s vision that by 2060 the ACT will be a sustainable and carbon neutral city that is adapting to a changing climate.

AP2 adopts a sectoral approach to identifying and targeting emission reductions. Action 11 under ‘Reducing waste sector emissions’ is to implement the ACT Waste Management Strategy 2011–2025 and achieve a carbon neutral waste sector by 2020. This identifies community gardens as a means to reduce waste and contribute to emission reductions in this sector.

ACT Waste Management Strategy 2011–2015

The ACT Waste Management Strategy sets a clear direction for the management of waste in the ACT to 2025.
The strategy encompasses waste from the household, commercial and industrial, construction and demolition sectors and biomass from wood and garden waste. The goal is that the ACT leads innovation to achieve full resource recovery and a carbon neutral waste sector. This goal is supported by four key outcomes and 29 strategies.

‘Support for community gardens and home composting’ is Strategy 1.2 under Outcome 1 ‘Less waste generated’. This recognises that community gardens provide opportunities for householders to reduce waste by composting household organic materials. Home grown food also avoids waste associated with commercial food production and distribution.

Healthy Weight Action Plan—Towards Zero Growth

The primary goal of the Healthy Weight Action Plan is to keep rates of overweight and obesity in the ACT at their current level—the goal of ‘zero growth’. This priority stems from the National Partnerships Agreement for Preventative Health targets agreed by all states and territories with the Australian Government. This is a national goal to hold the increase in the percentage of children and adults with unhealthy weight to less than 5% above the baseline value.

The ACT Government has identified six themes for the Healthy Weight Action Plan to address, which target the many factors contributing to obesity and overweight, with a broad goal of increasing physical activity and improving nutrition across the ACT community.

The six themes are:

  • food environment
  • schools
  • workplaces
  • urban planning
  • social inclusion
  • evaluation.

While the development of community gardens is not an identified action of this initiative, community gardens contribute to several of the six themes, particularly the urban planning theme (by shaping neighbourhoods to encourage active recreation and active travel); the social inclusion theme (by fostering learning about healthier food options); and the food environment theme (by supporting co-location of community gardens with schools).

Child-friendly communities

The UNICEF Child Friendly Cities Initiative began in 1996 as a response to a resolution passed during the second United Nations 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”. The ACT Government in its Parliamentary Agreement for the 7th Legislative Assembly agreed to immediately incorporate the principles of child-friendly planning promoted by UNICEF into ACT planning guidelines.

Community gardens can play a role in shaping the ACT as a child-friendly city. They provide children with the opportunity to engage with and explore their natural environment, and the chance to learn about flora, fauna and gardening. By helping to grow food in community gardens, children develop new skills and learn about healthy lifestyle choices and nutrition. Community gardens also help children connect with their local 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, which are all important parts of their social development.

Age-friendly communities

The city of Canberra (ACT Government) is currently part of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities. The WHO’s Guide for Global Age-Friendly Cities outlines that policies, services, settings and structures in an age-friendly city support and enable people to age actively by:

  • recognising the wide range of capacities and resources among older people
  • anticipating and responding flexibly to ageing-related needs and preferences
  • respecting their decisions and lifestyle choices
  • protecting those who are most vulnerable
  • promoting their inclusion in and contribution to all areas of community life.

Community gardens contribute to many of these features of an age-friendly community. Community gardens provide opportunities for older Canberrans to remain physically active, strengthen social networks and access garden facilities they may not have at home. Participating in community gardening, knowledge-sharing and mentoring creates opportunities for maintaining a sense of ownership and belonging in the community. Facilities such as community gardens that strengthen Canberra’s role as an age-friendly community will be increasingly important given the projections for the ACT as an ageing population.

Age-friendly communities also recognise the rights of people to be able to access services and infrastructure regardless of their age or mobility. Community garden sites should be accessible for everyone, including people with limited mobility or a disability, by providing elements such as raised garden beds. 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 prams.

General characteristics of community gardens

Garden design principles

Community gardens can be designed and managed in many different ways. Possible approaches for the design of community gardens are:

  • allotment gardens, in which gardeners have exclusive rights to the use of an area of land (the allotment holder may be an individual, family or group of friends)
  • shared gardens, in which a garden is cultivated in common, with produce being divided among the gardeners.

Many community gardens successfully integrate both approaches.

Verge gardening may offer a local alternative to growing food plants for personal use.

Management approaches

Due to the increasing popularity of community gardens as an urban activity, many jurisdictions around Australia and overseas are considering the most appropriate approaches to governance structures, management and the design of community gardens.

Achieving good design of community gardens may help ameliorate concerns with a new garden being set up in an existing neighbourhood. Design and aesthetic considerations include the design and location of the garden plots, fence materials and height, gates, location of sheds and other structures, parking and the overall relationship with the surrounding neighbourhood.

A jurisdiction might opt for a top-down or a community development approach to community gardens.

  1. In a top-down approach, the government owns, plans, finances and manages the land as a community garden. This approach is rarely seen in Australian jurisdictions. An example is the Seattle P-Patch Policy to use government-owned land for community gardens in association with high-density residential areas.
  2. In a community development approach, the government acts as facilitator, making land and resources available but leaving the planning, financing and management to the community group. This approach enhances community ownership, builds social capital and improves the success and long-term sustainability of the garden.
  • This is the most common approach both overseas and in Australia. An example is the City of Sydney community garden coordinator who provides practical support through advice and materials (such as mulch), education, training and financial assistance through community grants and sponsorship programs.

Management approaches for community gardens in other Australian jurisdictions feature requirements including the following:

  • There is no direct dealing with individual gardeners by the government
  • Community gardeners must form an incorporated organisation (or align themselves with an existing not-for-profit organisation), making it easier for the group to apply for community grants and other funding sources
  • Community garden groups must acquire public liability insurance
  • Direct financial support is not normally provided; rather, access to existing community grants is usually facilitated
  • The community organisation must draft a user agreement for prospective gardeners that is often approved by local government and included in the tenure agreement
  • The community group provides an annual or quarterly report to local government.
  • Access for the wider community must be provided to gardens located on public land (usually during daylight hours only), with this often stipulated in the tenure agreement

The dominant model of management of community gardens in the ACT is where a community group manages a plot of land (either by dividing it into allotments or creating shared gardens) to produce food.

The site is usually fenced and access is controlled by the community group. While this model has already proven successful in Canberra, other approaches should not be excluded from the possibility of approval.

Proposed management styles for new community gardens will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Community gardening in Canberra

Across the ACT there are many community gardens operating successfully (Figure 1), with several more currently being proposed. There are also many kitchen gardens associated with schools and productive gardens located in public housing communities and retirement villages.

The Canberra Organic Growers Society (COGS) provides management for up to 12 gardens in Canberra and another in Queanbeyan. Some gardens are located on unleased Territory land located on the edge of the urban area (such as the suburbs of Cook and Holder), while others are within the urban area (such as O’Connor). Some are located on leased land under agreement, including at the O’Connor Uniting Church, Dickson College and Kaleen High School. Other gardens not operated by COGS include the Kingston Organic Community Garden and the ANU Sustainable Learning Community.

The typical Canberra community garden is currently characterised by:

  • individual garden plots for twenty or more members together with communal areas
  • a connection to a drinkable (potable) water supply
  • gardens with edible produce and supportive companion (flowering) plants
  • secure fencing and a locked gate
  • exclusive access and use by members only, although some garden groups invite the wider community to social and educational events within their garden

The definition of community gardens in the Territory Plan refers to “the use of land for the cultivation of produce primarily for personal use”. Given this definition, the housing of most animals will not be permitted on community garden sites. However, animals considered to benefit the garden, such as bees, will generally be allowed. Animals such as chickens will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Cloven hoof animals, such as sheep and cattle, will not be permitted as they are not deemed to meet the land use requirements for community gardens under the Territory Plan.

  1. Figure 1 – The location of existing community gardens in the ACT
    (excluding those in schools and public housing developments)

Proposals for new community gardens

Role of the ACT Government

Proposals for new community gardens need to be discussed with TAMS within the ACT Government.


Developments associated with community gardens are generally exempt from the development approval process under the Planning and Development Act 2007 (the Act); Appendix B provides further details.
However, any person, business or community group that wishes to use public unleased Territory land continuously for a number of years is required to enter into a licence agreement with the land custodian and the ACT planning and land authority in accordance with Section 302 of the Act. Examples of activities that require such a licence include community gardens, stock grazing, car parking, boat storage, sports club activities, quarrying and commercial tourism activities.

A licence for a community garden will only be issued to an incorporated and suitably insured not-for-profit organisation, including community organisations. Under the Act, a community organisation means a corporation that:

  1. has, as its principal purpose, the provision of a service, or a form of assistance, to people living or working in the ACT
  2. is not carried on for the financial benefit of its members
  3. does not hold a club licence under the Liquor Act 2010

The ACT Government will assess the capacity of the group to build, manage and maintain the community garden before granting a licence.

TAMS is the custodian of most of the unleased Territory land (including public open space) in the ACT. National land is the responsibility of the National Capital Authority. Some land, such as school grounds and sports grounds, is managed by other ACT Government directorates. These directorates can also provide licences for community gardens. Any enquiries relating to licences should be directed to the relevant directorate.

As a general rule, community gardens on verges are not allowed. However, growing food plants for personal use may be supported. For information about verge gardening, refer to the advice on the TAMS website.

Typically, a licence for a community garden identifies the affected land, outlines the purpose and term of the licence and the responsibilities of each party. The term of a licence can vary; in some cases TAMS may decide to issue a licence for a trial period of three years, after which time the licence can be reviewed and extended for a further period of up to 25 years depending on the availability of the land.

Before entering into a licence for a community garden, TAMS will consider the proposal against the site selection criteria (set out in Table 2) and any other matters that may arise due to the context of the proposed site.

Additional information about obtaining a licence can be found on the TAMS website or by phoning Access Canberra on 13 22 81.

Licence fees

No licence fees apply to community groups, but the licensee will be responsible for the cost of services (i.e. water and electricity).

Possible future locations for community gardens

As the Canberra community changes, it is expected demand will continue to grow for community gardens to be:

  • located in newly developed urban areas
  • located in established urban areas and areas undergoing urban renewal
  • co-located with other community facilities
  • located in parks and urban open space.

The role and place of community gardens in the Canberra community is also expected to change. Community gardens are, by their very nature, dynamically functional and seasonally adaptable places. It is important for the ongoing success of a community garden that any community concerns about visual or other impacts of the garden are addressed.

Verges can also be used for growing food plants for personal use as an alternative locally. For information about verge gardening, refer to the TAMS website.

Newly developing urban areas

The ACT Government is encouraging developers (including its own Land Development Agency) to set aside suitable sites for community gardens as part of the planning for newly developing suburbs (such as in Gungahlin, Lawson and the Molonglo Valley).

The ACT Government identifies sites for community gardens through concept plans, which are developed for all newly developing urban areas. Concept plans are incorporated into the Territory Plan. Community garden sites identified in these concept plans are usually zoned urban open space and, where possible, are co-located with other community facilities. These sites have taken the site selection criteria in Table 2 into consideration.

A community garden site can be identified as part of the development of a new urban area, with community groups invited to express an interest in developing the new community garden. A community garden may also be constructed by the developer as part of developing an estate. Community groups interested in establishing new community garden sites should discuss the matter with TAMS.

Established urban areas

Community gardens may be located in established urban areas and incorporated into the planning for higher density residential areas around town and group centres and along transport corridors. Identifying a community garden site in an existing suburb requires special consideration to ensure a suitable location is selected.

One of the most important considerations is the support of the local community. Consultation is needed to ensure support for a community garden from surrounding residents, businesses and any current users of a potential site. Clause B10 of the site selection criteria (Table 2) relates to this consultation. Good design practice, as outlined in this guide, will help address concerns about a new garden being established in an existing neighbourhood and help ameliorate any potential visual or other impacts.

Co-location with community facilities

Consideration can be given to co-locating a community garden with other community facility sites. Co-location with other community facilities, such as schools, men’s sheds, community and youth centres and retirement villages may help community gardens play multiple roles and become more integrated in the community. Clause A1.2 of the site selection criteria (Table 2) relates to co-location with community facility sites.

Urban open space zoned land

Alternatively, a community garden may be located on an area of land zoned as urban open space in the Territory Plan. Clause A1.3 of the site selection criteria (Table 2) relates to this consideration.

Site selection criteria

The following table outlines the criteria to be considered when assessing proposed sites for new community gardens. It may not always be possible to find a site that meets all of these site selection criteria. The ACT Government will work with applicants to identify sites that can meet as many of the requirements as possible.

Table 2 – Site selection criteria for suitability to meet the physical requirements for a community garden


Suitability of a site to meet the physical requirements for a community garden




Sites should be considered where a community group demonstrates interest and commitment.


As a first preference, a site should be sought within the grounds of or adjacent to an existing community facility (such as school, church, community centre, neighbourhood hall, tennis courts).


Within an urban open space zone, locations on areas identified as ‘Pedestrian Parkland’ in the TAMS Urban Parks regional maps are most likely to be suitable and available.


It is preferred that unused and underused portions of urban open space be considered. In some cases, these may include the corners of parks, playing fields or other urban open space areas.


Sites should not compromise public accessibility and any of the current or planned functional requirements of public land.


Sites should not have a significant detrimental impact on neighbouring land uses.


Sites on unleased Territory land should not be considered unless there is sufficient demonstrated support from the neighbouring community for the proposed garden and no reasonable objections from stakeholders.


Sites located in higher density residential areas are preferred if there is sufficient demonstrated need and the site is both suitable and available.


Sites may be located adjacent to other recreational uses (such as dog walking parks, equestrian facilities and horse paddocks).


Land characteristics


Sites should receive full sunlight, ideally for at least 5–6 hours per day.


Sites should have adequate drainage.


Topography should be suitable for the layout of a garden without the need for cut or fill.


Sites where the garden beds can avoid existing trees are preferred.




Sites should have no major safety or health concerns.


Sites should preferably have good natural surveillance from nearby residences, businesses or passing traffic, cyclists and pedestrians. This includes ensuring good sight lines to and from the community garden site. Refer to the Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) General Code in the Territory Plan for further information on natural surveillance.




Sites should be accessible and inclusive for a broad range of user groups, including people with disabilities and culturally diverse or elderly people. Refer to the Access and Mobility General Code in the Territory Plan for further information on accessibility.


Appropriate car parking should be available on site or within reasonable walking distance.


Where possible, sites should be located close to public transport and public amenities such as toilets.


Sites should be located close to the walking and cycling network and public transport to encourage active travel to and from community garden sites.


Sites should provide bike racks or similar facilities to lock and store bikes.


Sites should have street frontage (or access within the garden) wide enough to allow maintenance vehicles and occasional deliveries (e.g. mulch).




Sites should preferably be large enough to accommodate the following:

  • a minimum number of garden plots to be viable in the long term
  • composting systems
  • rainwater tanks
  • seating areas and shelter for gardeners
  • garden beds, including raised garden beds for people with mobility issues
  • not compromise other functions of the public space.


Minimum garden size will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. As a guide, a garden containing individual plots for 20 people would be approximately 2500m2.


Maximum size limits may need to apply; however, this can only be determined on a site-specific basis.




Availability of potable water for the garden will need to be considered.


Access to a non-potable water source would be an additional advantage.


Soil quality


Previous land use should be considered.


Depending on the past activities undertaken at a site, an environmental analysis of the site may be required to determine whether it is suitable for a community garden.


Depending on any levels of contamination detected, advice will be required from recognised experts on whether the land is suitable for growing food.




Sites may need to be fenced to protect the garden from vandalism and theft, and prevent invasion by animals such as kangaroos and rabbits.

Refer to Appendix B – Community gardens development approval exemptions.


Multiple use — links to other facilities


Sites where a community garden can be integrated without conflicting adversely with other land uses, in particular co-located with a school or community centre, and where the community garden can still be used by non-gardeners for passive recreation and educational workshops, will be highly regarded.


Canberra Nature Park should be taken into consideration. Community gardens should not adversely affect these areas.


Sharing of access paths and parking areas should be considered.

Table 3 – Site selection criteria for availability for a community garden in relation to competing interests


Availability of a site for a community garden in relation to competing interests


Impacts on existing user groups


Any proposal for the use of a site for a community garden will need to identify all existing user groups for the site (including the general public) and the likely impact that siting a proposed garden in this location would have on those user groups.


The organisation wishing to establish a community garden will need to consult with any existing user groups, adjoining lessees and any adjacent residents. Sufficient consultation must be undertaken. This will be assessed on a case-by-case basis by TAMS.


Impacts on environmental and heritage values


Consideration should be given to the environmental and heritage values of a site proposed for a community garden.


The impact of a community garden site on surrounding open space needs to be considered when selecting future sites.


Future uses


A site for a community garden should not be required for any alternative future uses in the short term.


Protecting recreational opportunities


A site for a community garden, particularly on an area of urban open space, should not remove other opportunities for the community to participate in recreation.

Table 4 – Site selection criteria for management




Organisation management



Management of community gardens will be assessed on a case-by-case basis by TAMS.

The community organisation must be incorporated and insured to be eligible for a licence.


Sustainable garden membership


A community organisation considering establishing a community garden will need to be able to demonstrate a sustainable membership base with on-going leadership capacity.


Financial capacity


A community organisation considering establishing a community garden will need to be able to demonstrate a sustainable financial capacity.


Licence term


In some cases a licence may be issued for a short period (up to three years), after which time the licence can be reviewed and, where considered appropriate, extended for a further period of up to 25 years.


Appendix A

Relevant statutory provisions potentially affecting community gardens

A. Territory Plan provisions relating to community gardens

  1. In the Territory Plan, community gardens are identified in the common terminology as an ‘outdoor recreation facility’.
  2. In certain cases, a community garden may be considered as a ‘minor use’.
  3. ‘Outdoor recreation facility’ may be considered in the following Territory Plan zones:    
    • Community Facility Zone – CFZ
    • Parks and Recreation Zones (Specifically PRZ1 – Urban Open Space, PRZ2 - Restricted Access Recreation)
    • Certain Non-Urban Zones (Specifically NUZ1 - Broadacre, NUZ2 - Rural, NUZ3 - Hills, Ridges and Buffer)
    • Under P4 – Plantation Forestry overlay only in additional Non-Urban Zones NUZ4 – River Corridor Zone and NUZ5 – Mountains and Bushland Zone where outdoor recreation facility is generally prohibited (except for specific areas with P4 – Plantation Forestry overlay)
    • Certain Commercial Zones (Specifically CZ1 – Core Zone, CZ2 – Business Zone, CZ3 - Services Zone, CZ5 – Mixed Use Zone, and CZ6 – Leisure and Accommodation Zone)
    • Certain Industrial Zones (Specifically IZ2 – Mixed Use Industrial Zone)
  4. The Territory Plan specifies in the Parks and Recreation Zone Development Code (under Element 1: Restrictions of Use) that the maximum proportion of gross area of any single open space parcel to be used for ‘outdoor recreation facility’ purposes is 15% (Rule R2).

The criteria for this rule is that development for these purposes in the PRZ1 – Urban Open Space Zone meets all of the following:

  1. does not unreasonably restrict access to recreation space
  2. is of an appropriate scale and compatible with its open space setting.

Appendix B

Community gardens development approval exemptions

In providing support for community gardens, the ACT Government has recently introduced an exemption for community gardens from development approval on unleased Territory land. If a community garden is located on leased Territory land, development approval for a community garden and associated works will be required.

The exemptions apply to a range of likely structures which would form part of a community garden, such as fences, sheds, shade structures and raised garden beds. For full exemption information, refer to Division 1.3.3A in Schedule 1 of the Planning and Development Regulations 2008 (refer to

EPD has developed a factsheet ‘Community gardens exemption from development approval’ to help inform the public on development approval exemptions. The factsheet is attached on the following page, or is available at:


Aquaculture, also known as aquafarming, is the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic plants. Aquaculture involves cultivating freshwater and saltwater populations under controlled conditions.

City farms are usually community-run projects in urban areas, which involve people interacting and working with plants. They aim to improve community relationships and offer an awareness of food production to people who live in built-up areas.

Climate change refers to a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). Scientific evidence tells us that increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere are having a profound effect on our climate, oceans and ecological systems. Climate change is expected to affect our region by making it drier and hotter. It is likely to result in lower than average, less evenly distributed and less predictable rainfall, meaning drier overall conditions but increased flash flooding.

Commercial horticulturalists are involved in the growing, distributing and selling of food crops and plants. Community gardeners, under the definition in the Territory Plan, are not able to commercially sell the produce from the garden.

Community gardens include the use of land for the cultivation of produce, primarily for personal use by those doing the gardening, including demonstration gardening or other environmental activities that encourage the involvement of schools, youth groups and citizens in gardening activities.

Food miles are a way to measure approximately how far food has travelled from the producer to the consumer. It looks at the environmental impacts of where our food is sourced from. It includes the impact of getting food to the consumer and also how waste is taken away.

Food security is when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life (World Food Summit, 1996).

Food sovereignty is the right of people to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.

Organic gardening is gardening without fertilisers and pesticides. In an organically managed garden, the emphasis is on cultivating an ecosystem that sustains and nourishes plants, soil microbes and beneficial insects.

Natural surveillance concentrates on limiting the opportunity for crime by designing spaces and buildings that foster human activity and interaction as well as overlooking of the environment.

Roof-top gardening is any garden located on the roof of a building. Roof-top farming is becoming an increasingly popular form of community gardening. It utilises otherwise unused space, recognising the increasing pressure on land for urban development, and has potential climate change adaptation benefits.

Sensory gardens are designed to stimulate all five senses. They can facilitate the enjoyment of nature by people with disabilities, such as visual impairment or dementia, in a safe and tactile environment.

Sustainable living is a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual’s or society’s use of the Earth’s natural resources and personal resources. Those practising sustainable living often attempt to reduce their carbon footprint by altering methods of transportation, energy consumption and diet.

Urban agriculture is the harnessing of local land and biosystems to meet the food needs of urban communities. Urban agriculture encompasses food production, distribution, preservation, fair and affordable access, efficient waste recycling facilities and closer links between urban and nearby rural communities.

Verge gardening refers to the practice of planting street verges with edible produce. In the ACT growing food plants on verges for personal use may be supported. For information about verge development, refer to the advice on the TAMS website.

Vertical gardens or green walls are walls that are partially or completely covered with vegetation and include a growing medium such as soil. These gardens generally include an integrated water delivery system. Vertical gardens may be inside or outside and come in a variety of sizes. They utilise unused space and have potential climate change adaptation benefits.