City food chain role on table

Fairfield School pupil Ben Wilden (10) checks the progress of broad beans that are being grown on surplus state highway reserve. Photo by Dan Hutchinson.
Fairfield School pupil Ben Wilden (10) checks the progress of broad beans that are being grown on surplus state highway reserve. Photo by Dan Hutchinson.
The Dunedin City Council is being asked to take a more active role in Dunedin's food chain by supporting community food initiatives and even helping protect wild food sources. Reporter Dan Hutchinson takes a look at the ideas released by the council's Community Resilience Forum.

The Dunedin City Council will decide on Monday if it wants to take a more active role in feeding its citizens - everything from paua to pumpkins could be included in its patch.

Community Resilience Forum chairwoman and city councillor Jinty MacTavish said the forum had been exploring food-related matters since May, at the request of the council.

In its report, the forum is recommending food be acknowledged as a strategic issue for the city and the council take a more co-ordinated approach to food-related issues.

There are a multitude of food-related initiatives already sprouting around the city - everything from community vegetable gardens to protests aimed at protecting paua stocks for non-commercial harvest.

Even surplus land beside Dunedin's southern motorway is being used for vegetable growing by pupils at Fairfield School.

Board of Trustees member Greg Inch secured a 999-year lease on surplus road reserve land from the New Zealand Transport Agency to use land at the top of a steep rise, a safe distance from the motorway.

This was no problem for the NZTA, which confirmed it regularly received requests from the community to use surplus land.

Northeast Valley group Transition Valley 473 has recently set about planting up to 1000 fruit trees on council reserves and the fruit will be available for public consumption.

The forum's recommendations to the council would take its involvement to a new level and corporate policy team leader Maria Ioannou warned there would be ''resource implications'' and other work might have to be re-prioritised to cater for it.

Cr MacTavish said the council was only one player in a large area but it had a role in facilitating discussion and co-ordinating people's efforts.

''Food is one of those issues where it has a massive impact on the wellbeing of our citizens but council is only one player in a fairly significant pool of players.''

She agreed others might not see it as a core council activity but that was why they needed to discuss it as a council.

Other opportunities mentioned in the forum's report related to opportunities for new food manufacturing businesses and the protection of wild food sources through habitat protection and sustainable harvest rates.

 

Is the food chain broken?

"The Dunedin City Council is being asked to take a more active role in Dunedin's food chain by supporting community food initiatives."

"Supporting" never means saying "goodonya" in this context, nor does it mean permitting  free use of a public space for an hour one ofternoon to organise a group hip-hip-hooray shout, expressing their supportive attitude.  No, it means "give money" whether as cash-in-hand and goods and paying for staff - organisers, facilitator, and for their travel to food-chaining conferences, and before you can say Mr Robinson's Lettuces we have another Department In Perpetuity to support from our rates.

Is the food chain broken? If not, how about we leave it to those who are already doing it on their own time and leaving the DCC  to get on with  fixing the city's priorities, and firmly reminding councillors to do likewise, because the city is.  Broke, I mean.

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