Melbourne’s bayside city of Port Phillip has won a battle for community gardening streets after opposing proposed nature strip bylaws that would limit residents’ ability to plant gardens in nature strips.

The petition attracted almost 6,000 supporters locally and beyond, and the crowdfunding campaign raised more than $30,000 for the Heart Gardening Project (THGP) – with organizer Emma Cutting saying her campaign “sets a precedent” for community gardening with the win.

The group’s focus (for now) is the Melbourne Pollinator Corridor, an 8-kilometre wildlife corridor that will connect two green spaces – Westgate Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens – that run parallel to the Birrarung (Yarra River).

The Melbourne Pollination Corridor will run through Westgate Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens. Image: Heart Gardening Project

The community group hopes to plant 18,000 native plants in 200 gardens by the end of 2024, with the aim of increasing biodiversity and bringing in native bees and other native pollinating insects.

The corridor was designed based on the opinion of more than 20 scientists and experts. After two years of work, the group has created 10 gardens covering more than 480 square meters on previously uneven public land, and four more are under development.

The project plans to expand within the city with the aim of expanding to Adelaide and Sydney.

In these cities, sidewalk gardening is permitted with restrictions.

THGP’s crowdfunding campaign was based on the idea that community gardens should be “for everyone”.

“They are for people of all socio-economic backgrounds, cultures and ages… These are gardens that spark conversation, joy and action. These are gardens for our pollinating insects, which are vital to our precious ecosystem and food security. These are gardens for our native plants that are an integral part of the history of our lands and First Nations culture.”

Battle for the streets

Port Phillip Council has introduced draft regulations to restrict nature strip plantings to leave a 1.5 meter radius around utilities such as electricity pylons and NBN pits. Now this has been changed to 30 centimeters. The regulations will also limit plantings from 1.5 meters to 2.5 meters from the tree. Now this has been changed to 50 centimeters.

The council planned to introduce restrictions to improve accessibility for footpaths and child crossings. They are now considering paving to provide more space for community gardening.

This was announced by Port Phillip Mayor Marcus Perl The Fifth Estate: “Accessibility of public spaces, including streets and footpaths, is a top priority.”

“As part of the Greening Port Phillip development, paving options will be explored and this research will focus on maintaining accessibility. De-paving is important in urban areas to improve permeability, increase green space, help reduce the urban heat island effect, and provide more opportunities for people to garden on the streets.

Plans for the Urban Forest Strategy are ongoing

Pearl said the council is currently in the final stages of recruiting a community greening officer to support community gardening in the public realm (nature strip gardening and community gardens) and develop resources to support horticulture and biodiversity in the area.

Port Phillip Mayor Marcus Pearl said the council was about to launch an update to its Urban Forest Strategy. Photo: Marcus Pearl

He said the council was about to launch an update to the Greening Port Phillip Urban Forest Strategy, which would “set the direction for urban greening across Port Phillip in the future”.

The preparation of the new strategy will begin at the end of this year.

“Council officers have approached the Heart Gardening Project to suggest discussing the Melbourne Pollinator Corridor, but have not responded at this point,” Pearl said.

The Fifth Estate The Heart Gardening Project was contacted but did not receive a response at the time of publication. ??

They should be gardening!

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