Local governments as gatekeepers to community gardens: what does “support” mean?

Publication Name

Local Environment


In Australia, community gardens (CGs) commonly take the form of communally-operated growing spaces situated on public land administered by local governments (LGs). LGs and their policies are gatekeepers for CGs, and their support can determine garden viability; however, evidence regarding the nature of “support” in this context is limited. This research identified CG policies through the websites of all LGs (n = 207) in New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria, Australia and analysed these policies to describe which LGs have a CG policy, the aims of LGs’ support, the departments responsible for CGs, and what practical supports LGs provide. Thirty-nine CG policies were analysed. Most commonly, policies existed to provide a standardised framework for how LG would facilitate community groups to establish and manage CGs, and to define the roles and responsibilities of LG and community groups. Departments responsible for CG policy implementation were categorised as Community, Environment and Infrastructure, Planning, and/or Strategic and Corporate. Overall, LGs took a “hands-off” facilitator role, rather than one of an implementation partner. Common supports during application and establishment included LG arranging a licence agreement for leasing the land, assisting with site identification, and helping groups with the application process. During the garden maintenance phase, the most common supports were providing platforms for networking between CGs, providing education and information, assisting groups to apply for grants, and providing in-kind support. Recommendations for LGs, community members, and other levels of government are provided. Key Policy Highlights Currently, the nature of support provided by Australian local governments to community gardens is variable and largely limited to a “facilitator” role. Local government support could be strengthened by producing clear and comprehensive policies, reducing bureaucratic red tape, and institutionalising processes that preserve public land for food production. All levels of government can allocate ongoing funding for edible gardens at community level.

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