Yarra Ranges Shire Urban Agriculture Policy Snapshot

Yarra Ranges Shire Council

 Background and Overview

 

Yarra Ranges Council is located on metropolitan Melbourne’s eastern fringe, an area of almost 2,500 square kilometres incorporating over 55 suburbs, townships, and small communities in a mixture of rural and urban areas. The climate, soils, rainfall and proximity to markets make the Yarra Ranges of the most intensively farmed areas in the state, with major industries including flowers, nursery plants, berry and orchard fruits, wine grapes, beef and grain (Green Wedge Management Plan, 2010). Key council documents like the Council Plan (2013-2017), Vision 2020 (‘Environmentally Sustainable Shire’), Environment Strategy (2015-2025), Green Wedge Management Plan (2010), address topics concerning the importance of Yarra Ranges agriculture in feeding Melbourne’s growing population, agribusiness interests, environmental sustainability, and ecological health.

Photo via Yarra Ranges Council website

Photo via Yarra Ranges Shire website

These documents are orientated towards the concerns of agribusiness, whose voice is heard directly by Council in the Agribusiness Yarra Valley (formerly known as the Centre for Agriculture and Business Yarra Valley (CAB) regional agribusiness forum. It is a partnership between stakeholders, industry and government that aims to support sustainable agricultural and business development in the Yarra Ranges. Council provides Agribusiness Yarra Valley with annual funding to be an effective source of relevant information to agribusiness, be the lead agency for coordinating activities, and represent the views of agribusiness in the Region. The current 3-year partnership with Agribusiness YV is due to be reviewed in 2018.

Due to the nature of Yarra Ranges as a pre-urban Council, urban agriculture is not a major component of their existing policies and strategies. There is, however, interest in enabling community members to grow food on both public and private land. This interest is translated into goals in the policies described below. Recognising the importance of urban agriculture and having emerging out of Goal 2 of the YV Health and Wellbeing Strategy (“Increase understanding, access and consumption of healthy food”), Council has been gradually developing a holistic food policy that will attempt to achieve this goal. This process was also encouraged by Vic Health’s recommendation that the most useful action for local with regards to encouraging health eating is developing a holistic, well-consulted food policy that provides a strategic direction for council when it comes to food-related actions.

Council website provides some basic information on how to find and establish a garden in the community, and provides links to resource and groups that include; the ACFACGN (Australian City Farms and Community Gardens Network), Grow it Local, Landshare, Permaculture Melbourne, and Yarra Valley ECOSS (2016, Yarra Ranges Council). Community groups like ECOSS explicitly state their role in achieving key council objectives, stating; “Our Vision also directly supports the core objectives of the Yarra Ranges Council Vision 2020, to promote sustainable communities and increase employment opportunities”.

In addition to the community garden resources and links, Council also has a sustainable garden webpage with information relating to Urban Backyards (part of the Flora and Fauna Plan -2012); Waste and Recycling Guide, and Information on Weeds. The focus of these documents is on biodiversity protection and enhancement, water conservation and quality, minimizing energy input, and garden design.

Review of Policies, Plans and Procedures Addressing Urban Agriculture and Related Areas

 

         Name of Document                                 Reference to Urban Agriculture and Related Areas

Environment Strategy (2015-2025) The Yarra Ranges Environment Strategy reflects a strong concern towards the sanctity and of the natural environment and the importance of its protection (Yarra Ranges Council, 2015). Supporting rural productivity, ecological health, resource conservation, and promoting sustainable agricultural values are key actions identified in the Strategy’s Vision. There is a strong recognition of the importance of agriculture to the local economy and in feeding Victorias growing urban population;

“Agriculture is a significant component of the Yarra Ranges landscape and the richness of the municipality’s agriculture has made it an important food production area for Victoria”

Without specifically mentioning urban agriculture; Goal 5: Our communities are resilient in the face of a changing climate and more extreme more events, intends to support community food production systems and local food supply chains and distribution networks.

(Yarra Ranges Council, 2015).

Green Wedge Management Plan (2010) The shared agricultural vision (relating to agriculture) for the Yarra Ranges Green Wedge is: “The Yarra Ranges community will encourage and support sustainable farming, a healthy biodiversity, valued landscapes and rural living in its Green Wedge”. There are seven action areas identified;

  • Agriculture
  • Overarching Issues
  • Biodiversity
  • Landscape Management
  • Tourism and Leisure
  • Rural Living
  • Cultural Heritage

(Yarra Ranges Council, 2010)

Specific attention is given to the regions role in feeding Victoria’s growing population. Urban agriculture / small scale farming is mentioned under the Rural Living heading, where “many residents are attracted by the idyllic bush land setting, opportunity for small scale farming and the ability to own horses – all within commuting distance of the city.” (Yarra Ranges Council, 2010).

In adopting the Plan, Yarra Ranges Council has committed to actively discourage further subdivision or development of rural land that does not uphold the primary values and only support sustainable land management practices. (Yarra Ranges Council, 2010).

Council Plan (2013-2017) (2015 Update) The Yarra Ranges Council Plan has several actions that closely relate to agriculture in all its forms;

  • Establish a Rural Advisory Committee to support Council in addressing the challenges farmers and agriculture face to protect and enhance the rural sector within the municipality (currently seeking expressions of interest)
  • Facilitate local investment and improve the output and sustainability of local sectors through working with community, industry and government agencies
  • Develop opportunities that support water security, local food chain networks and drive innovative practices through working in partnership with the local agribusiness industry.

(Yarra Ranges Council, 2015a)

Economic Development Strategy The agribusiness section within the Economic Development Strategy outlines a number of priority areas with the mission to foster agribusiness within YV. While tailed towards the interests of large producers, Priority Area 7.3 specifically supports local food supply chains and distribution networks which may also benefit smaller producers.
Naturestrip landscaping Guidelines (Final Stages) (2016) These guidelines aim to remove the prohibitive policies that currently exist to residents planting or otherwise landscaping their naturestrip, and replace it with clear guidelines of what might or might not cause an issue to Council and the Community (e.g. Traffic visibility, underground infrastructure). Community consultation is finished now, comments are being reviewed and a user-friendly version of the document will soon be produced and available on the YV Council website.

 

 Review of Existing or Developing Food Systems and Urban Agriculture Strategies

Snapshot & Summary  
Strategy / Framework / NA Strategy
Does the Strategy or Framework integrate existing policy documents that explicitly address or make reference to urban agriculture and related area? N/A
Does the Strategy or Framework make reference to the Council Plan and appear to be integrated into the achievement of the Plan’s major objectives? N/A
Does the Strategy or Framework make reference to and integrate the objectives of The Municipal Health and Wellbeing Act (2008) into its framework? N/A
Does the Strategy or Framework recognise and address the ecological, economic, environmental, social welfare, cultural, and social benefits of urban agriculture and local food systems? N/A
Does the Strategy or Framework recognise the interconnectedness of urban food systems (from production, processing, distribution, access, consumption, nutrient/waste capturing, and recycling)? N/A
Does the Strategy or Framework have an action or implementation plan, a set of indicators, or feedback mechanisms that will allow it to evaluate its development, achievements, successes, obstacles, barriers and lessons. N/A
Is there an educational component of the Strategy or Framework? N/A
Is the Strategy being overseen by a dedicated Food Policy Liaison Officer? N/A

References:

  1. 2010, Yarra Ranges Council, Green Wedge Management Plan (2010), Available From; http://www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/files/assets/public/webdocuments/planning-building-health/strategic-planning/policies-strategies-strategic-planning/green_wedge_management_plan_-_adopted_july_2010.pdf
  2. 2015, Yarra Ranges Council, Environment Strategy (2015-2025), Available From; http://www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/About-Council/Strategies-policies-and-legislation
  3. 2015a, Yarra Ranges Council, Council Plan (2013-2017), Available From; http://www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/About-Council/Strategies-policies-and-legislation
  4. 2016, Yarra Ranges Council, Greening Communities – Community Gardens, Available From; http://www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/Community/Environment/Green-communities
  5. 2016a, Yarra Valley ECOSS, About ECOSS, Available From; http://www.ecoss.org.au/about-ecoss/

Henry Crawford, Sustain: The Australian Food Network, 2016.

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