By Christopher Bantick
First it was sea-changers then tree-changers that moved into country communities looking for rural bliss. The next migration may be vegie-changers.
This is a likely scenario if Melbourne councils continue to whack sky-high rates on vacant land used for vegetable gardens.
The latest Melbourne council to penalise – yes penalise – people growing fruit trees and vegetables on their own unbuilt land is Darebin.
Well, what use is it having a vacant block when it could be used for housing?
It’s a punitive strategy.
According to Darebin City Council chief financial officer Kerrie Jordan, upping council rates on vacant land comes with a clear intention.
Rates on vacant land in Darebin are three times the levy on residential property.
They are, wait for it, $2519 if you grow a few spuds on your own empty land!
“We want to encourage land owners to develop vacant land to increase the supply of housing and to enhance the city’s vitality,” Ms Jordan says.
There is zero regard for a green environment here and it seems that “vitality” is equated with living cheek-by-jowl in concrete suburbia.
Clearly Darebin City Council has not heard of food sovereignty presented at the 1996 Food and Agriculture Organisation world-food summit in Rome.
It is defined as “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through sustainable methods.”
Unlike the UK, Melbourne does not have an allotment culture.
Because UK house blocks are smaller, local councils lease small allotments of council land to ratepayers to grow vegetables.
They are sought after and waiting lists are long.
Melbourne has historically not had to do this as there was ample space on the standard quarter-acre block. But as people on big blocks invest in dual occupancy, gardens are shrinking.
There is a Chinese proverb that makes more than a little sense.
If you want to be happy for a week, take a wife: if you would be happy for a month, kill a pig: if you would be happy for ever, plant a garden.
There are clear health reasons for growing your own food.
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