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Vic Gov to trash Melbourne's water recycling market gardens for quick bucks in thirsty new suburbs

21.5% of Melbourne's sewage is currently recycled to Class A or C recycled water standard. This is mainly used on market gardens, open spaces, golf courses, vineyards and to reduce dust at construction sites. Most of the remaining treated effluent is discharged into Port Phillip Bay and Bass Straits under accredited EPA licences.

Clean Ocean Victoria spends a lot of time protesting about the pollution in the bay which is associated with these discharges, and advocating that these 'outfalls' be recycled. For no good reason, the government has been ignoring these recommendations by Clean Ocean for years. Now there is a plan to trash the network of pipes that supplies recycled water to Melbourne's market gardens, just to build more suburbs to satisfy the construction lobby's demand for more immigrants to buy houses. In the mean-time we are subjected to constant harassment from the Victorian government to make us use less water. We also watch helplessly as tyrants facilitate a ridiculously expensive desalination plant - in electrical, financial and environmental terms - and deliver us up to it as customers.

Putting the cart before the horse

We have here an example both of the damage done in the service of unnecessary population growth and the failure to offset some of that damage by retaining a superb working food production area which also puts water to excellent re-use. Yet we are still subjected to harangues by suprisingly well-publicised so-called 'green' activists who basically argue for 'smart growth' and have been doing so for years in the face of the entrenchment of just the opposite. You can't help wondering what's in it for them.

For instance, in his article, ,"A growing population is not the problem" Cam Walker, (Friends of the Earth) tries to argue that population growth isn't important because we should really be reducing our ecological impact. He has been saying this for years in the face of exponential increases in consumption in our throwaway society. Now he is saying it in the face of massive acceleration of population growth.

In fact, Cam just sounds like another member of the growth lobby. If he isn't getting paid by them, he certainly should be.

Cam, by the way, is also incorrect in asserting that all recycled Melbourne water is dumped into the bay. Currently the Eastern Treatment plant in Carrum supplies the Eastern Irrigation Scheme in Cranbourne.
see: and

State government to trash agriculturally important water recycling system in greater Melbourne

This is a network of pipes that supplies recycled water to market gardens.(Simple explanation of where Melbourne's sewer water goes that includes the market gardens.)

This area has just been designated part of the Cranbourne growth corridor (but has not yet passed into law by the Victorian upper house) which means that the agricultural market garden area and the associated pipeline infrastructure from the Carrum Eastern Treatment Plant (sewage treatment plant), will be under houses in the next few years.

I only learned of this in a presentation recently by a planning official from the City of Casey (which covers the Cranbourne area). City of Casey has proposed that the agricultural areas will be protected and they are prepared to sacrifice other rural areas in the city (City of Casey is on the urban fringe) so as to save the market gardens. But the state government didn't listen to them. City of Casey sees the market gardens as a significant employer and part of the Bunyip-watershed food-bowl region.

Those of us who worry about rising prices for vegetables in shops can also see how important these metropolitan cheaply watered sources of food are.

Market gardens sacrificed for more housing for more people

They have also had an area that was designated as industrial rezoned to housing by the state government. This was an area that the City of Casey had hoped would serve as a centre of employment for its residents. The state government has changed this. This means that the new (and existing) residents of Casey will have less opportunity to live and work in the same area, directly contradicting any desire for sustainability that has been expressed in other government policies.

Displaced Victorian farmers unable to find new well-watered land to restart market gardens

One of the people at the forum commented that the market gardeners who are prepared to sell and move further out (into Gippsland) have been unable to buy land that is still close to the urban fringe that has the same access to water supply as the one in Cranbourne.

The planning official said that the Victorian government's view is that there is no consequence in forcing out market gardeners from Melbourne because it places a much higher priority on adding to our population rather than planning for our future.

Comments by editor

Once most of us were self-sufficient and working for wages was done to supplement our incomes. Big business didn't like this because it meant that people had a choice about whether they would work for wages or simply please themselves. The main way that big business, working hand in hand with government, removed our choice in this matter was to remove our rights to land and soil. This was done in England famously through laws favoring big land-owners taking land from small land-owners and taking public land and enclosing it, supposedly for more efficient production. In colonies like Australia, everyone started out with food gardens. Even places like hospitals and schools had food gardens. But, using the same process, corrupt governments worked with big business and big agriculture to get control of food production, and the food transport. For those of us who do have enough land for a vegetable garden in the suburbs, local governments work to remove our rights to use our gardens to their fullest extent, with rules about what animals we can keep and what we can do in built-up areas. We are expected to move on if our suburb becomes built up; we are losing the rights we had to protect what we had. Now we work so hard anyway, that few of us have the time to build up a viable garden - even though growing food does not require much labour overall. It is only if you want to grow food for profit that you need to work very hard to produce a lot more than you need for yourself.

"Along with domestic food production in backyards, market gardens traditionally supplied most of Melbourne's vegetable requirements. Early gardens were located along Merri Creek and the Yarra and Maribyrnong rivers, and from the 1840s English, Scots and Irish families established gardens in the sandbelt localities of Brighton, Moorabbin, Bentleigh and Cheltenham. Following the gold rush, many Chinese immigrants moved to the metropolis and established market gardens, mostly along watercourses in northern and eastern suburbs including Heidelberg and Coburg. These gardens made a vital contribution to the metropolitan vegetable supply until the early decades of the 20th century, when increasing taxes and rates, combined with rising land values, made subdivision a more lucrative proposition for the landowners. The 1920s saw the commencement of Italian market gardening in Werribee (still an important area for vegetable production), and the introduction of motorised trucks. These joined the traditional cavalcades of carts piled high with vegetables which would converge on city markets and return to the gardens laden with manure from urban stables. In the 1880s some growers also fertilised their crops with nightsoil purchased from contractors. World War II necessitated a large expansion in vegetable production. While semi-rural districts such as Glen Waverley were noted in the prewar decades for their well-ordered countryside of orchards and market gardens, by the late 1950s the once substantial acreages of growers like Jim Stocks, the Cauliflower King of Ashwood, were being subsumed by suburban expansion. Where once vegetables grew within a few hundred metres of Camberwell Town Hall, postwar developments in transport and post-harvest technologies have seen even outer suburban market gardens increasingly replaced by large-scale capital-intensive vegetable farms located further from the metropolis.

Andrea Gaynor

Monk, Joanne, 'The diggers in the trenches: a history of market gardens in Victoria 1835-1939', Australian Garden History, vol. 4, no. 1, July/August 1992, pp. 3-5. Details Source


Interesting ... if not scary.

Hopefully the new suburbs will be using Class A water from the upgraded ETP in 2012.

The same thing is happening in western Sydney...

'Sprawl eating us out of house and homes'
by Debra Jopson and Kelly Lane, Sydney Morning Herald, 16th May 2010

'The body representing 10 western Sydney councils has accused the federal government of ignoring its plans to stop the nation's biggest city from gobbling up its farmland, risking a disastrous loss of crucial fresh food sources.

''The failure to take seriously the need for long-term agricultural land in the Sydney basin will have disastrous consequences for our food supply,'' Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) president Alison McLaren said.

''The federal government needs to realise that agriculture is not just the domain of rural areas.''

State government research estimates the Sydney agricultural industry is worth between $800 million and a $1 billion annually, with 10 per cent of total NSW produce coming from 1 per cent of the state's agricultural land. Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows more than 8500 people are employed in the Sydney industry.

Cr McLaren said WSROC's attempts to get a response from the federal government about its Urban Adapt program - aimed at ensuring the continuity of fresh produce to Sydneysiders - had failed.

About 30 groups and institutions, including state departments, are working on the plan despite the lack of federal involvement.

She called on federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke to immediately pledge to work with WSROC and other bodies ''to secure the food supply grown in western Sydney''.

The Sydney region grows about 15 per cent of the state's vegetables, according to NSW Primary Industries research. It produces at least 80 per cent of ''perishable'' vegetables - defined as those that are fresh, have not been processed and have a short shelf life - for NSW. These include Asian vegetables, capsicums and chillis, celery, parsley, basil, coriander, mushrooms and silverbeet.

It is also the state's most important area for producing chickens, ducks, turkeys and eggs.

But an internal NSW government analysis has predicted that two Sydney areas earmarked as growth centres to house 1 million more residents by 2036 will cause that production to plummet.

Planned development in the south and north-west growth areas will lead to a possible 29 per cent drop in vegetables grown and a 35 per cent drop in poultry meat produced.

''Over 50 per cent of NSW's vegetables are grown in the Murray-Murrumbidgee region, where water availability is becoming a significant issue,'' says the document, produced by the state department governing agriculture.

''According to Professor [Ross] Garnaut, the rivers in the Murray-Darling basin could deteriorate to a trickle by 2050 as a result of climate change. Sydney has good agricultural land and may also have better rainfall than inland as climate change occurs. The capacity for Sydney to continue to provide vegetables should be increased - not reduced.''

Urban Adapt would weigh up how much farmland should be kept on the city fringe and whether there should be new farming zones along motorways, WSROC executive director Jeremy Goff said.

It would consider how to source food when climate change made the Murray-Darling and Murrumbidgee food bowls less viable. And rising fuel prices would increase the cost of freighting food.

Possible new intensive farming greenhouse technology to allow growing food close to the city and a blossoming movement in community gardens were also on the agenda, Mr Goff said.

The aim was to ensure that fresh, equitably priced food will still be available to Sydney people and those in the west in particular.

Most of the city's vegetable farms were set to disappear over the next 20 years as housing development marched across the south and north-west, he said.

David Brunckhorst, director of the Institute for Rural Futures director at the University of New England, said plans must be made to extract the maximum benefit from what little good soil and rainfall areas we have: ''In this country we have very few and they are very precious.''

The Murray-Darling basin had gone down the drain while much of our topsoil had blown away, he said. Farming on city fringes and in rich soil around the Great Divide must be nurtured, and homes could be built in rocky areas.

Mr Burke acknowledged the importance of food being grown locally but would not answer questions about Sydney's farm land being rezoned. Nor would he say whether the federal government should intervene to protect Sydney's agricultural land.

''The food eaten by people in Sydney already comes from all over the nation,'' Mr Burke said.

NSW Primary Industries Minister Steve Whan said there were ''plenty of good reasons to ensure food should continue to be grown here in the Sydney basin''.

''The region has the advantage of a mild coastal climate, with a range of suitable soils and access to reliable water supplies, transport, labour and markets,'' he said.

And of course the likes of the developer lobby which calls itself 'The Urban Taskforce', cries foul over 'high council levies and reams of bureaucratic red tape" in Sydney, which it argues is limiting its frenetic sprawl. It says because of this Melbourne is set to outgrow Sydney. [Red tape, levies drawing Sydney back]

So which city wants to outgrow Shanghai first - Sydney or Melbourne?

The power of the growth lobby is so strong it just over-rides common sense and science. With the MDB food bowl compromised and climate change impending on our land's future abilities to produce food and water, surely the first priority is food and water security. If one of our major exports is food, then protecting fertile areas should be a major priority. The sponsorship of our political parties by businesses that benefit from developments and population growth should come to an end. This collusion is corruption and the people already here should be protected, and future generations.
In a new study published in Science on wheat and the mustard plant at the University of California at Davis, scientists found that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide interferes with plants’ ability to convert nitrate into protein resulting in lower nutritional yield. We will need more land, not less!
Our generation is addicted to short-term-ism and like rats leaving a sinking ship, they will take what they can in the process and leave the land for the next generation desolate and depleted!

The legislation has now been passed and the market gardens of Cranbourne will soon just be a part of history.
see: The Age
City to 'grow' 134,000 homes on farmland

PRIME food-growing land on Melbourne's fringe will be lost to make room for thousands of new homes following a massive urban expansion.

Casey councillor Geoff Ablett said the council had been ignored in its pleas to protect the invaluable market garden land. ''You have got to factor in feeding the people. We think the price of food will go up if we have to put food-growing further out.''