Rural landholders in the ACT need certainty for the future of their land so they can expand local food production, the ACT's Environment Minister says.
Rebecca Vassarotti told the ACT parliament on Thursday a review of the territory's agricultural policies would look to find ways Canberra's "food bowl" could be bolstered.
"Establishing a Canberra food bowl is a critical piece of the puzzle as we re-envision our city and territory to be resilient, sustainable and prosperous in a climate changing world," Ms Vassarotti told the ACT parliament on Thursday.
Ms Vassarotti said ACT farmers needed to security of tenure in return for the stewardship of the land, enabling them to invest in greater food production.
"This would allow our rural leaseholders to explore new local supply and value-adding opportunities. They can also strengthen their vital part in our response to climate change by building healthy soil, storing more carbon and helping reduce the impacts of flooding," she said.
But Ms Vassarotti stopped short of committing to 99-year or other long-term leases for rural landholders in an interview with The Canberra Times.
"There's complexity in the issues. We do have the situation that we need to work with the Commonwealth government in some instances, but I think there's a real shared understanding that security is important and longer leases are absolutely one of the tools that we need to look at," she said.
ACT Rural Landholders Association president Tom Allen said farmers wanted 99-year leases like everyone else in the territory.
"Why shouldn't we have what the rest of the ACT residents have got? Then people will put money into supporting the environment, looking after the environment. People need security of tenure, so they can invest in the future of their farm and make it environmentally sustainable," Mr Allen said.
Mr Allen said the ACT had urban areas and buffer zones set aside, but there needed to be more certainty for farmers.
"We want to know what's agricultural land in the ACT. ... We want the ACT government to set aside designated rural land in the ACT, where we can grow vegetables in green houses. But people aren't going to spend money if things are designated for the long term," he said.
In the Legislative Assembly, Ms Vassarotti, a Greens member, said 90 per cent of Canberra's fresh leafy greens and fruit came from Sydney, which made the food supply for the ACT vulnerable.
"When Brisbane was hit by the major floods a decade ago, it was just three days from running out of food. We saw last year how severe fires can affect our transport routes; and all of us have felt the pain of higher fresh food prices during times of major disaster when it affects food supply," she said.
MORE A.C.T. POLITICS:
Ms Vassarotti said a greater emphasis on urban agriculture could expand the amount of food grown within Canberra's suburban areas.
"We can learn from other leading cities around the world such as Seattle, Toronto, Barcelona and Melbourne who have invested in urban agriculture and protecting agricultural land in their surrounds as part of building local food security," she said.
"Local food systems create meaningful work, social enterprises and tourism, and local pride. The Bush Capital would make for a wonderful food brand."
ACT farmers have previously criticised the ACT government for not renewing their leases, saying last year it meant they were living in limbo with the threat they could be booted off their land in 90 days' notice.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: