Cockburn to trial community verge gardens


Jodie Vennitti with produce grown from her garden.
Jodie Vennitti with produce grown from her garden.

AN initiative turning street verges into community gardens will be trialled in Cockburn.

In August, Coolbellup resident Jodie Vennitti flagged her intention to run the Food is Free Project at the front of her home.

The movement, which began in the USA, encourages people to connect with their neighbours and to build “front yard community gardens which provide free harvests to anyone”.

Gardens are built using recycled products.

With the proposal likely to conflict with council policy regarding community gardens and street verge improvements, Cockburn councillors voted on Thursday night to support a trial on “a limited number of properties”.

The trial will not be considered until at least the 2017-18 financial year because it was not considered in the recent budget.

Speaking on the night, Cockburn’s engineering and works director Charles Sullivan said council officers had assessed the Food for Free Project against current policies.

“Rather than changing any council policies that would have a City-wide implication for the future, the City officer’s recommendation is that a trial is appropriate on a small scale to test out some of the more practical aspects of the verge improvements based on applications that would come in for those properties,” he said.

“At the end of the trial period, council can assess the results of that and the implications of any changes to council policies.”

Ms Vennitti, while “ecstatic” with the trial, said the initiative was a “community driven project, not a council driven project” and was concerned applicants would be expected to focus on objectives and key performance indicators mentioned in the report.

Mr Sullivan said things like objective would be what “council officers would be looking at, not what we expect the residents to look at”.

“What we would expect from the residents on the trial locations is an application to council … in terms of what is actually intended on that particular verge at that particular location and then City officers would assess that,” he said.

“Council officers would observe the results during the trial period and assess the implications not just for that property but the rest of the local community as well.”

Ms Vennitti still felt residents would feel the burden of targets.

Councillor Stephen Pratt, who called for the report to be produced, said it was new ground for the City.

“The trial will allow staff to understand the concept and work with residents to possibly role it out across the City,” he said.

“After speaking with Jodie I think we both came to an agreement verge spaces could be better utilised.

“This trial could potentially provide the answer to that problem.

“The other thing is that it’s had success elsewhere. The program exists so there are lessons that could be learnt from what others have gone through.”