14 October 2009

Grow Suburbs, Not Vegies: Developers

...if we can design fridges with TVs and internet, why can't we have affordable housing AND protect our hinterland so that we have local food supplies?

This is not about food self-sufficiency, its about food security!

Excerpt from Sydney Morning Herald, 13 October 2009

'Preserving the farms on Sydney's fringe in the name of agricultural self-sufficiency will cripple the city's growth, putting extra pressure on renters and home owners, a property developers' lobby group says.

''The costs of that are further restrictions on our supply of new housing. Sydney has already seen over the past 10 years what happens when you don't allow for adequate growth outward. Rents have gone up by 22 per cent in the past two years for three-bedroom houses,'' said Aaron Gadiel, chief executive officer of the Urban Taskforce.

His comments follow revelations in a report by Peter Malcolm and Riad Fahd from the NSW Department of Industry and Investment that agriculture is shrinking dramatically in the Sydney basin and just 1050 vegetable farms remain.

The report recommended a review into whether these farms should be expanded to make the metropolis more self-sufficient in produce, but Mr Gadiel said that retaining existing agricultural land may not improve the carbon footprint of the city's vegetable consumers.

Using giant warehouses and large trucks to bring produce from outside Sydney may be more carbon efficient than relying on smaller city-fringe farmers with small vehicles requiring numerous journeys, he said.

The remaining farms cover an area of 2025 hectares - less than the City of Sydney council area - and more than half will disappear when the north-west and south-west growth areas earmarked by the Government are developed over the next two decades, the researchers found.

Some farmland is set to accommodate industrial centres providing employment, said Mr Gadiel.

''Should we … deprive ourselves of housing and job creating industries to prop up an industry which is not economically viable?'' he asked...

However, the chairman of the NSW Farmers' Association horticulture committee, Peter Darley, said that the city needed to retain its farms because they had a more reliable water source than those further west, especially during drought.

''You must also maintain food security close to your population base,'' he said.

Sydney farmers can eliminate the ''middle man'' because they are within 50 kilometres of the market, but if they moved further west, they would have to employ more people to move the produce, increasing the cost of vegetables, he said.'

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