IN an Australian first, Bayswater locals can now plant their own food on council parks.
“No local government has ventured into this realm before,” says councillor Chris Cornish about the council’s new edible pocket garden policy.
In March 2015 he floated the idea of letting residents grow veggies on their verges and to expand the concept to include local parks.
The urban food movement gathered steam, and last August prominent gardeners came from across Australia for a presentation on the issue.
At the event, Bayswater resident Greg Smith revealed he was the unofficial warden behind the Rose Avenue garden, where he and helpers had surreptitiously planted lemon trees, guava, fig, chillies and other fruits and veg, over 15 years.
At the January 24 council meeting, Cr Cornish said “no local government has ventured into this realm before.
“But the people have—Rose Avenue, Margaret Reserve, Gobba Lake to name a few”.
He said others have approached the city wanting to plant their own food producing gardens.
He says it’s not a carte blanche policy (so you’re not allowed to plough an entire public park for a corn crop, or graze your goat herd on Frank Drago reserve) but the approval process is meant to be simple: call the council officers to get the green thumbs up, and possibly a site-visit if needed to chat about planting options.
Cr Cornish says city staffers Doug Pearson and Jeremy Maher have done a great job getting the policy together, despite initial resistance from the city’s risk-averse insurers, which were nervous about the idea.
He says initially “the insurers viewed any non-city employee working in the park as being a volunteer, and that opened up a can of worms such as attending an annual training workshop, a site risk assessment, a log of the day and times on site, etcetera”.
But a rejigging of the policy and a little more negotiation with the insurers means the public gardening will be considered a “recreational” activity, treated no differently than kicking a footy at the park.
For any Baysy residents wanting to plant up their local park, the guidelines are posted at http://www.bayswater.wa.gov.au/trees/edible-pocket-gardens
by DAVID BELL