Garden seed fund’s doubt

A sign promoting the community garden at Chandler Road reserve earlier this year. 228288_01 Picture: GARY SISSONS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

After months of red-tape delays, a proposed Keysborough community garden’s $20,000 of council funding is now under threat.

Maralinga Community Garden had been allocated the funding as part of the City of Greater Dandenong’s 2020-’21 budget.

But the project in Chandler Road Reserve had stalled due to awaiting council approval while the council enacts a community garden policy.

The money is not guaranteed to carry over into 2021-’22, council corporate services director Mick Jaensch confirmed at a council meeting on 24 May.

“The very short answer is no, it has not (been carried over into 2021-’22).

“That is because we only assess carry over projects in July of each year.

“We will conduct that review in July 2021 and then we will bring forward a list of carry overs for Council’s consideration in September 2021.”

MCG organiser Bryan Hunter said the latest hurdle may kill off the enthusiasm of more than 20 members who joined up two-and-a-half years ago.

Since then, the garden group had “jumped through all the hoops” but had “nothing to show for it”.

“It should have been great. It has everything going for it,” says Mr Hunter – who led a successful community garden at Athol Road Primary School.

“I don’t need to grow a garden. But I wanted to do this for the community.

“Now we’re losing the people who are driving it. We’re losing the passion from having nothing to show for it.

“If we don’t have anything on the ground by Christmas, we have to shut up shop.”

Since 2019, the garden had got incorporated, public liability insurance and submitted budgets and management plans as requested by the council.

The garden has also submitted a planning permit for fencing and sheds – as a result of a VCAT decision involving Bayside City Council in December.

Earlier this year, the project was held up while the council undertook a community consultation.

Kim Peterson, of Berwick and Endeavour Hills neighbourhood gardens, said it took “time and patience” to get a garden off the ground.

“In these times organisations need to get together to make things happen rather than delay.

“Community gardens offer vast opportunities to a broad range of community members to unite them in a way which benefits not only the individual’s overall well-being but connects the whole community in ways that in recent times may have been lost.

“A chance must be given to a group to let them have a go.”

City of Greater Dandenong’s community garden policy will be presented to the council in the next financial year, planning director Jody Bosman said.

“In terms of the proposed Maralinga community garden, Council is continuing to work with this group on the development of the garden.”