City food forest is growing closer

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 12/07/2014
food forest
STACY SQUIRES/ Fairfax NZ
FRUITFUL MEETING: Shirley-Papanui Community Board member Aaron Keown meets with Christchurch City Council officers, university experts and Tony Moore, John Parry and Antony Shadbolt, and Krystina Hill, from the Canterbury Heritage Fruit Tree Archive Group to discuss plans to establish a food forest in an old orchard in Marshland Rd.

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Plans for a network of public food forests in Christchurch are starting to take root.

Several community groups have already set up their own food forest or community garden in the city and now the Christchurch City Council is considering jumping on the bandwagon.

In a couple of weeks the council's environmental committee will consider a report which suggests making council-owned land available to people to plant fruit or nut trees on. The idea was raised by Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck and Cr Ali Jones earlier this year and has won strong support, particularly among community groups.

Under their proposal the council would identify pockets of public land across the city that were suitable for planting but people would have to supply and tend the fruit or nut trees themselves. The resulting produce would then be freely available to anyone in the city.

"Heaps of people want to do this despite the fact there is a cost to them," Buck said. "It is quite an altruistic thing for people to do."

Buck said the project had no significant financial implications for the council and there was no reason why it could not get off-the-ground quickly. "We just need to get out of the way and make it as easy as possible for people to do."

Former councillor and Shirley-Papanui Community Board member Aaron Keown is also involved in the food-forest movement and is working with council staff on a project that would see an old orchard in Marshland Rd, which is owned by the council, opened to the public.

Keown said the orchard covered about two hectares and was full of established peach, plum, apple and pear trees which meant people would be able to harvest fruit from the food forest this summer. Volunteers would be sought to help maintain the orchard but the fruit would be freely available to all.

There was also enough room within the orchard for some sizeable vegetable plots and it was hoped that community or ethnic groups could use them to grow vegetables of their choice.

Keown said a public meeting would be held at the St Albans Community Centre, in Colombo St, at 7.30pm on July 23 for anyone interested in becoming involved with the food forest.

The idea of creating edible gardens on publicly owned land has become popular overseas. Christchurch's sister city Seattle, in the United States, has created a food forest on a 3ha parcel of city-owned land on a hill only three kilometres from its city centre. The forest is filled with edible plants and fruit trees and people are allowed to pick the produce free. In Irvine, California, the 4ha Incredible Edible Park is credited with helping to feed 200,000 local people in need every year.

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- The Press

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