Melbourne’s food bowl is at serious risk of disappearing to housing development unless significant changes are made, according to a new report.

More than 80% of the vegetables eaten in greater Melbourne are grown in the suburbs which ring around the city’s outer suburbs, including places like Werribee and the Mornington Peninsula. These growing regions also supply large volumes of broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and other crops to Sydney Markets and independent greengrocers across NSW.

However, as urban sprawl has continued and Australia’s population has continued to grow, these farming areas are coming under increasing pressure.

One suggestion from a report by The University of Melbourne was to introduce a food protection zone that would protect inner farming areas.

Report author, Rachel Carey, said it was a critical time for food production around Melbourne.

“If we continue to grow our city in the way that we have in the past, with much of the growth on the urban fringe, then by the time we reach 7 million people the capacity of that food bowl to feed the city could drop from 41% to 18%,” she said.

The report suggested five policy pillars that could help protect the sustainability of the food bowl: farmland protection, farm viability, water access, nutrient recycling and sustainable farming.

As part of this, researchers said that putting a hard boundary in place for urban growth, and introducing a new food production zone would help keep agriculture viable in the region. The report also suggested a bigger emphasis should be placed on farmers reusing wastewater and reusing organic waste for food production.

Government seeks submissions

The Victorian Government has been investigating how to protect Melbourne’s agricultural land.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) has been seeking submissions until 23 April about how this can best be achieved.

The department said it was in the process of trying to identify the most important agricultural land, and their draft criteria was looking at “the naturally occurring features of the land as well as current land uses, location of important infrastructure, and links to processing and supply industries”.

The Government hopes to implement the planning changes by 2020.

Original article by ABC Rural

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