ACT News

Canberra to allow food to be grown on nature strips

The ACT government will introduce new guidelines in the coming weeks to allow people to grow vegetables on nature strips.

Territories and Municipal Services Minister Shane Rattenbury said after consultation on the guidelines in the coming months, he wanted new rules in place this year.

"We've got vast tracts of land in Canberra that are put to no productive use and mostly either TAMs or the householder just has to mow them," he said.

Growing food on nature strips was good environmentally and gave people a better connection with food, he said. "They understand where it comes from, they've got an appreciation of the effort that goes into it, they're less likely to be wasteful."

Detailing his agenda for the final nine months of the parliamentary term before October's election, Mr Rattenbury also said the government would call for tenders for a company to offer car-sharing in the first three months of the year.

The government would contribute parking spaces in the town centres. Car-sharing services, such as Go Get, work by people paying a monthly fee to belong, giving them access to cars to hire by the hour or day. Car-sharing was one of the agreements in the power-sharing deal struck by the Greens and Labor after the 2012 election.

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As the sole Green this term, Mr Rattenbury said holding the balance of power alone was a hefty job, with "a weight to it that is quite significant".

"I have this almost triple role as the person who holds balance of power, as a minister and also the sole representative of the Greens party. And each of those carries a different set of expectations."

While he can make demands of the government – and wielded that power twice in 2015 to overturn the decisions on $50 notes in poker machines and the Telopea Park school land swap – he said he must use the power "deftly".

"It's a matter of exercising that in a way that produces good outcomes on each case but also a good working relationship and a stable government," he said.

When Mr Rattenbury joined Labor's ministerial team after the 2012 election, he signed an agreement with then chief minister Katy Gallagher. But she has left parliament, Andrew Barr has become chief minister, Meegan Fitzharris has taken Ms Gallagher's seat, and now Mary Porter and Simon Corbell are set to go at the next election, with the future of Joy Burch also in doubt. The loss of Ms Gallagher and Mr Corbell means the loss of two leading left-wingers.

But Mr Rattenbury takes the upheaval in his stride, saying Labor had been "a good partner".

"Andrew is a different character and he has different priorities to Katy but we have been able to develop a good working relationship," he said.

"... One of the lines the Liberal Party will run is this is a government that's been around for a long time, but I think it's fair to say the Labor Party has gone through a renewal in terms of having a new chief minister and they will be bringing new faces next term inevitably.

"But also the partnership with us keeps them fresh, it creates a dynamism in government."

Also on the to-do list for 2016, Mr Rattenbury hopes to have agreement by August on a needle exchange scheme in the prison.

He hopes a single conservation agency will be in place during the year.

A single transport agency, covering ACTION buses and Capital Metro also begins in 2016, and Mr Rattenbury has a number of projects on the go to improve the buses. Workshop hours will be increased to get buses back on the road more quickly, the back doors of buses will be useable at more stops, off-peak services will be improved, he said, characterising ACTION as "a long-term project".

"It's proved to be harder than I anticipated," he said of his time in charge of the buses.

"We have an industrial arrangement that limits flexibility and we have a city that is spread out ... Part of me does feel that some of this inflexibility has been allowed to build up over time and people have not tackled it as thoroughly as they might."

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