Senate submission triggers meeting with Victorian MPs

Posted on 21. Jul, 2009 by in Submissions

Lynne Saville reports on the SFFA meeting with a delegation from the Parliament of Victoria at NSW Parliament House on 17 June 2009.

The meeting, hosted by Ian Cohen MLA at Parliament House, Sydney, was the result of the Sydney Food Fairness Alliance (SFFA) submission to the Senate Inquiry into Food Production in Australia of October 2008, and the SFFA presentation to the Senate Inquiry in Sydney on 5 March 2009.

SFFA members participating in the meeting with the Victorian MPs and their support staff included Dr Frances Parker, Liz Millen, Russ Grayson, Catriona Macmillan and myself.

The two Victorian MPs were present at the meeting, Mr Don Nardella and Mr George Seitz, with the Committee’s executive officer, Sean Coley and Keir Delaney, Research Officer, Outer Suburban/Interface Services & Development Committee.

Following a brief introduction, the Victorians outlined the issues and contraints faced by their constituents in the periurban agricultural land surrounding Melbourne.

The MPs were on a fact finding mission. After our meeting they had an appointment with Department of Primary Industry, further meetings on Thursday and on Friday they were travelling to the University of Western Sydney to meet with representatives from Hawkesbury Harvest and then to visit John Maguire’s Grose Vale property. Later, they travelled to the UK and Toronto, Canada, to glean further information.

The members of the delegation were well briefed on our previous submission and presentations. We also gave a brief snapshot of the formation of the SFFA and its objectives, and responded to questions posed by the MPs.

The delegates discussed current threats to periurban agriculture and need to preserve a healthy, viable, sustainable agricultural food systems in close proximity to Melbourne.

Discussions focused on:

  • food security in Sydney
  • promotion of food production within the Sydney region
  • planning across the wider Sydney Region to promote a sustainable Sydney.

Consideration was given to:

  • food affordabilty
  • viability of production by farmers
  • sustainable impact on the environment.

Cities face common threats

There were common themes and emerging threats to periurban agricultural land identified at the fringe of both our cities. These include increasing urbanisation, drought and the predicted climate change which will influence food production. We agreed there is an imperative need to protect periurban agriculture and the food security, essential for sustainable cities.

We touched on food wastage, imported foods threatening viability of local orchards such as apples and oranges.

Frances gave an in-depth perspective on periurban agriculture and the livelihoods of the growers in the Sydney Basin. She outlined the unique situation regarding the livelihood of culturally and linguistically diverse growers in particular and spoke fluently about the characteristics of those growers, usually operating family farms on little more than two hectares. These growers are entreprenuerial, independent, they have introduced new crops and are highly productive.

Frances highlighted the successive waves of immigration and different crops favoured by a range of cultural groups. However, they tend to lack representation and political clout.

Urban planning may impact city farmland

There is on-going concern that the Metro Strategy proposes to develop land in the south west and north west sectors on some of the most productive agricultural land in Australia, close to water, transport and local markets.

The Sydney Basin provides over 80 percent of perishable vegetables, nearly 100 percent of Asian vegetables, 40 percent of of poultry and egg production sold in Sydney. Recent studies indicate that 52 percent of Sydney’s market gardens are located in the designated residential growth areas in western Sydney.

I cited some of the multi-strategic approaches of community food systems developed by the Hawkesbury Food Program at the urban-rural interface. Strategies included:

  • community surveys
  • gathering ABS data
  • initiatives such as linking growers with local restaurants
  • a trial farmers’ market
  • facilitating change to the LEP to allow food to be sold at the farmgate
  • the map development for the farmgate trail.

Addressing food insecurity

Initiatives to address food insecurity included formation of the food co-operative targetting those on low income; selling affordable foods including local produce; facilitating grower-home delivery services; organising volunteers for gleaning and redistribution of fresh produce locally; community gardens; budget cooking classes. Projects linking school canteens and families with local growers further support the local ecomomy.

Russ outlined examples of community enterprise including community food systems and  community farms and gardens and outlined his experience with the Fairfield City Farm which forms a buffer zone.

He discussed the potential impacts of climate change on food production, the potential benefits for carbon storage in agricultural soils, organic food production and the myriad benefits of community gardens. He recommended that the MPs seek out the Australian tour by Micheal Shuman in Australia in June.

Liz provided further dimensions to food insecurity in low income areas of western Sydney where research undertaken in 2004 in  three low income areas found a prevalence of food insecurity of over 20 percent. This rose to 50 percent for partricular groups such as single parents.

I outlined the process underway in planning for the Food Summit, the purpose of, and examples of food policy, eg. that being developed in Scotland. Liz described the research into food insecurity in south western Sydney,

Catriona emphsised the need for healthy soils, clean agriculture and warned that farmers’ markets may be a ‘simplistic solution’ rather than a deeper understanding and knowledge of soil governance.

We stressed that food security is fundamental for human health and should be incorporated in comprehensive, long term planning at all levels of government to ensure that Australia is sustainable and that it caters for diversity of cultures.

We agreed that there is need to ensure food security, and there needs to be:

  • clear definition of the roles and responsibilities of each sphere of government
  • legislative, policy and regulatory guidance
  • information and data provisions
  • trial initiatives and demonstration projects eg. examples developed in the Hawkesbury
  • Funding and investment strategies
  • a comprehensive strategy to feed Sydney now and in the future is needed.

Liz provided each member with a folder of SFFA resources to provide further information. The meeting lasted well over an hour, and we look forward to reading the MP’s recommendations.

We were appreciative of the opportunity to meet with the MP’s in such elegant surroundings and for the refreshments organised by Parliamentary researcher, Jocelyn Howden, and Greens MLA, Ian Cohen.

Tags: , ,

No comments.

Leave a Reply

*