Council ponders food role

Andrew Whiley
Andrew Whiley
The cost of having the Dunedin City Council take a greater role in improving the resilience of the city's food supply is to be investigated.

Council staff will report to the council early this year on what resources would be required to have a more co-ordinated internal approach to food-related issues and to engage with stakeholders on ways to deal with the challenges, risks and opportunities in the area of food supply.

The work is to happen after the council's Community Resilience Forum spent eight months exploring food-related matters in Dunedin, particularly the sustainability and resilience of food supply to the city.

The council resolved last month to note food presented a strategic opportunity for the city and asked staff to report on the cost of taking a greater role in co-ordinating work in food-related areas.

In a report from the forum, chairwoman Cr Jinty MacTavish said there was an increasing focus on food in council strategies, particularly the spatial plan, which set out a vision of a Dunedin where ''productive lands have been protected and are providing for local food markets, as well as contributing to the city's economy''.

Jinty MacTavish
Jinty MacTavish
Underpinning that was the rationale that having land available for food production in close proximity to an urban area reduced the length and cost of supply chains and created local markets for produce, she said.

The plan also included a policy to encourage local food processing, distribution and markets, with listed actions such as investigating methods to encourage that; investigating the future infrastructure requirements necessary to secure food supply in the face of potential climate change effects; and investigating rates relief for growers who were producing for direct sale to local markets.

Dunedin's productive hinterland was also identified in the economic development strategy as a key asset to leverage in driving the city's economic development, she said.

The forum identified a long list of food-related issues and opportunities for Dunedin, including the protection of arable land around the city, regulatory requirements for the food industry, the centralisation of supermarket distribution systems, the lack of local processing plants for some food industries (for example meat), the relationship between access to quality food and other positive outcomes such as better education results, increased productivity and health, food as a city marketing tool and supporting and increasing food rescue operations and community and household composting.

Neville Peat
Neville Peat
Councillors had a lengthy debate at the latest meeting over whether to support the forum's recommendations. Some councillors, including Crs Andrew Whiley and Hilary Calvert, were concerned about supporting the recommendations without having more information about the costs, how much resources any work would require and what other work would have to be dropped to accommodate it.

Cr Whiley was particularly concerned the council did not step in and do work already being done well by community groups. Cr Neville Peat said it was important to bring the issue to the council's attention. While he saw the council's role as an enabler and encourager, staff would have to be taken off other work to do that and he needed more information about that. Mayor Dave Cull reminded councillors the report was really only seeking endorsement in principle and any budgetary requirements would have to come to the council for approval.

Cr Kate Wilson said the empty bread shelves after the Christchurch earthquakes had shown Dunedin was at risk in its supply lines, and there was a need for some co-ordination of the ''wonderful'' work being done. Cr MacTavish said everyone working on food-related matters was operating in silos, even council departments, and a consistent approach would be better.

Staff are to report back in time for annual plan discussions.

- debbie.porteous@odt.co.nz

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