A proposed initiative to utilise the three dimensions of Docklands to grow food and bring people into hands-on contact with food they end up eating. This can be done by encouraging residences and workplaces to use rooftops, podiums, balconies and internal spaces as an opportunity to grow usable food.
- Docklands has numbers of high rise buildings which ‘breathe – they have space around them with access to light and air in contrast to many in the city
- A particularly high proportion of Docklands apartments have open air balconies compared with other locations
- A 21st century suburb which is still developing is able to incorporate 21st century thinking rather than have to retrofit.
- Many residents moved to Docklands because of its green and blue credentials and lifestyles and as such are often more open to green initiatives
- A number of Docklands buildings already have trellis structures for external green walls and guidelines for climbing plants, some as a canopy across a communal roof area
- The new rooftop garden at NAB could feature some food plantings and presumable the new Medicare building would be a particularly good showcase for such a venture
The initiative can make use of:
- Rooftops – in the case of those inaccessible to the general public or residents they can still be used for rooftop bees
- Balconies – there are many opportunities for growing food in balcony pots
- Podiums – Many buildings have an outdoor communal podium level which is ideally suited to numbers of larger plants
- Wintergardens and outdoor decks. Numbers of apartments have wintergardens and large outdoor decks well suited to a variety of plantings
- External and internal green walls. They already exist in some cases and owners could be encouraged to include food in the plantings
- Indoor plantings – Some building already have copious indoor plants to polish the air. Food could be included among the mix
- Landscaping and parks are capable of containing edibles
- Nature strips and verges likewise
- The community garden, though small, is capable of being a focus and catalyst for such activities
Plants do not need to be anchored to the one place. They might start off as seedlings in a small apartment, then nurtured in pots on a neighbour’s north facing balcony, transferred to podium level to come to fruiting stage before eventually being planted elsewhere. Local traders could be encouraged to ‘host’ larger pots – placing them outside during the day then locking them up at night. There are large numbers of opportunities for community interaction.
Stakeholders & catalysts
The following groups could become involved:
- Local residents
- Bodies Corporate
- Local workers
- Local businesses
- Service groups such as Rotary
- The Community Garden group (if they are interested)
- City of Melbourne
- The larger developers (Lend Lease etc)
- Places Victoria
- Destination Docklands and other promotional groups
Once the initiative gained enough momentum it might become self-sustaining with little input needed from some of those mentioned above.
Events & activities
The initiative could be supported by:
- Regular classes and hands on sessions – possibly at the Community Garden
- Illustrated walks through Docklands (including inside Corporate buildings) highlighting the initiative and showing what can be done
- A midweek farmers’ market supplementing the produce already grown locally to be held once a week (monthly is tokenism)
There are numbers of contemporary developments regarding growing food in an highly urbanised environment and this initiative could be open to examining and adopting appropriate techniques. Who knows? – maybe Docklands could become the site of Australia’s first urban vertical farm.
In the early 20th century the concept of the quarter acre block arose as that which could make a large family self-sustaining. It served well for half a century but is now part of the problem rather than the solution. Most quarter acre blocks are no longer used for running chooks, keeping a goat or cow and maintaining a large vegetable garden. Most now house small families are no longer used in a sustainable way and are a major factor in unsustainable urban sprawl. The start of the 21st century calls for a different paradigm and the green and blue credentials built into Docklands have produced fertile ground for such an initiative to grow and perhaps become an international demonstration site for what can be done in this area.