ACT News


Costa Georgiadis says food forest has 'national significance'

Gardening guru Costa Georgiadis has described a new food forest initiative in Lyneham as a "project of national significance".

The Lyneham Commons project has created a model of urban farming in Canberra that allows unused pieces of public land to be planted out with fruit and nut trees.

The citizen-led initiative has taken two years to negotiate and has received overwhelming community support, with 97 per cent of people in favour of the project.

"The high level of support for the Lyneham food forest reflects the growing momentum for community and school gardens, city farms and sustainable gardening in general," Mr Georgiadis said.

The Lyneham Commons, unlike community gardens that have private plots, will create a sustainable tree-based food forest. About 30 varieties of fruit and nut trees will be planted including apple, plum, cherry and pistachio — transforming a bare piece of underutilised public land into a thriving public orchard.

Lyneham Commons' founder Alison Stewart said they'd worked on a model with the government that could be easily replicated across Canberra.


"It is not that this is a new idea that we've thought up," Ms Stewart said. "This is a worldwide movement to bring food growing back into the suburbs and Canberra is an ideal city for that."

Lyneham Commons spokeswoman Margaret Clark said people would walk through the space and say, 'wouldn't it be wonderful if we could do something'.

"We wanted it not to have a fence and not to have a lease," Ms Clark said. "We wanted it to stay public land. We want people to come through and pick fruit and enjoy the space."

She said they wanted verge land and unused bits of space where they could have things grown on them.

Areas of Melbourne have been doing laneway plantings and verge plantings for years, while towns such as Bendigo and Castemaine in Victoria have led public food initiatives.

Toronto and Seattle have experienced huge public food movements. In Seattle, government authorities have set aside an entire park for public food growing.

Ms Clark said the food forest was also about building social capital with notions of food security in back of mind.

"There is quite a worldwide movement of people wanting to do verge gardening," she said.

With the ACT government and the community settling on a model for the Canberra project the path is now clear for similar initiatives to take hold in the territory.

Minister for territory and municipal services Shane Rattenbury said despite the strong support there were a few objections.

"One of them was it is not big enough," he said. "That counts as an objection. There were few other reservations in that category."

He said it was a great example of land being used for a higher order purpose.