The LGUAN formed in late 2012 in order to support staff working in different departments in a number of Councils to share knowledge and experience with policy and program initiatives in areas such as guidelines for community gardens, edible planter boxes and edible verges. The Food Alliance assumed responsibility for the facilitation of this Network in August 2013, and since then its membership has expanded to more than 20 Councils, and the scope of its work has expanded from urban agriculture to local food and food system plans, strategies and policies. It continues to meet quarterly, with meetings hosted by different Councils on a rotating basis. The October 2015 was held at Yarra Ranges Shire Council, in the Dandenong Ranges outer eastern district of Melbourne.
The quarterly network meetings have provided an invaluable opportunity for staff to share research and project outcomes, discuss emerging issues and trends, learn from experiences across different local governments, and build their own networks. Key emerging challenges identified through the course of this year have been:
- How to work together effectively to secure the inclusion of urban agriculture within the Victorian State Planning Provisions, to create an enabling framework for the more rapid expansion and support of diverse forms of urban and peri-urban agriculture throughout Melbourne and in other regional centres
- How to engage effectively with key internal stakeholders – senior managers and Councillors – so that they are fully appraised of the relevance and importance of food systems issues, and how they impact on the realisation of core Council goals across economic development, health and well-being, environment and sustainability, and community strengthening
Beginning as a conversation amongst a handful of inner-city councils, the rapid expansion of the Local Government Urban Agriculture Network reveals the high levels of interest and engagement with food systems work by growing numbers of councils in Victoria. This is now an Australian-first conversation and a process about an authentically whole-of-system approach to food and agriculture based in values and principles of health, fairness, sustainability and resilience that are widely shared across the Victorian and Australian community.
We look forward to continuing to support the expansion and growth of this Network through 2016 and beyond. For more information and to get involved, please contact Sustain Executive Director Nick Rose: NicholasR@Angliss.edu.au / M: 0414 497 819.