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Role of Local Government in Food Policy & Governance

This article is republished with permission from Circles of Food. Please click here to view the original.

Food Systems and the Role of Local Government

In 2017 Sustain distributed the final Local Government Food Governance and Policy position paper to all 79 municipalities in Victoria. You can download the position paper here: FOOD SYSTEMS AND THE ROLE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT Final

The position paper was presented by Associate Professor Adrian Hearn and Dr Nick Rose at the New Urban Agenda conference in May 2017 and also at the EcoCity World Summit in Melbourne in July 2017. We will be working with councils and our allies and colleagues across the Victorian food system to the comprehensive reform agenda outlined in this document. For more information, contact Dr Nick Rose, [email protected]

Formation of the Food Governance Taskforce

From late 2015 through to early 2017 Sustain worked with the Victorian Local Governance Association (VLGA) as well as staff from a dozen local councils in the formation of a time-and-task limited Food Governance Taskforce.

This Taskforce was formed at the initiative of the VLGA and Sustain, following the Democratising Food Systems workshop held at William Angliss Institute on 19 October 2015. It was a multi-institutional action-oriented taskforce, with a volunteer local government membership, formed with the intention of supporting local government in Victoria to be an enabler of food system change that supports health and wellbeing, environmental and economic development outcomes. The Taskforce met several times with the participation of 13 Councils, and pursued its work via three working groups focused on the priority themes of Health and Wellbeing, Planning and Economic Development.

Purpose of the Taskforce

  • To capture and disseminate existing best practice in Victoria and elsewhere as regards food system policies, strategies, research, programs and projects
  • To support Councils and communities to embed food system principles and actions in key Council plans and strategies
  • To support Councils and communities to identify key barriers and obstacles to food system change, and engage in collective advocacy to address those obstacles at the State level

Terms of Reference of Working Groups:

  1. Develop brief position statement on the issues under consideration, by reference to:
    • The issue / drivers of change
    • Guidelines / best practice / areas of engagement
    • Key Stakeholders
    • References / research
  2. Purpose of the position statement: To articulate clearly the role of local government, as
    • removing barriers to change
    • enabling food system change
    • advocating for food system change
  3. Audience for the position statements
    • Members of the working group/ Other Councils
    • Potential funding partners
  4. Outcomes sought
    • Half a dozen best practice policies / strategies across the different areas identified and profiled
    • A dozen templates and guidelines produced
    • Case studies identified and profiled
    • Formation of a Victorian Food Network, supported by the VLGA and Sustain

As stated by Andrew Hollows, former CEO of the VLGA:

The Food Governance Taskforce will focus on defining the role and the challenges and opportunities for local governments in the space of agriculture and food systems. The Taskforce will examine issues from economic development, to local laws and best practice with a view to coming up with a targeted shortlist of priorities for the sector in terms to understanding and realising the potential of this vital part of our economies.

Andrew Hollows, former CEO of the VLGA

Food City – the City of Melbourne’s Food Policy

The invitation was sent to councillors, managers and staff in 18 local councils from inner-metro, peri-urban and regional cities and shires. Representatives from Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, City of Whittlesea, City of Melbourne, City of Cardinia, City of Greater Geelong, Yarra Ranges Shire Council, Hepburn Shire Council, and the City of Wodonga attended the first meeting.

They reviewed the drivers that had led to the creation of food-system policies, plans and strategies, with a particular focus on the crushing burden of dietary-related ill-health in many municipalities, the largely hidden but growing phenomenon of food insecurity, and the significant potential for job creation and business development through the support of strong local and regional food economies.

Sustain supported the formation of this taskforce through the work of one of our Masters intern students, Sally Jane Flett, who carried out in-depth interviews with Agribusiness Officer at the City of Whittlesea, Annemaree Docking, and Rural Business Officer at Mornington Peninsula Shire Council, Gillian Stewart, on the significance of their roles within their respective local councils. Sally presented to attendees her initial findings on the work of Annemaree and Gillian - and we reproduce some slides from her presentation here.

The Taskforce discussed some of the key barriers to food systems work in local government in Victoria. These included a lack of understanding (and therefore commitment) from senior levels of management and councillors, as well as impediments at the state-government level, especially in relation to loopholes and constraints in the planning provisions.