Impending loss of community garden highlights need to connect

Russ Grayson reports on the impending sale of land and loss of a community garden…

A FRIEND alerted me this morning to the impending sale of public open space at Suffolk Park that reportedly includes a community garden as well as a children's playground.

The open space is Lot 60, Beech Drive. It is to be auctioned on Tuesday 29 November. Suffolk Park is a residential area adjoining the southern boundary of Byron Bay on the NSW North Coast.

According to the Change.org petition, "If sold we will lose our Community Gardens, the home of Suffolk Park Football Club and other social groups: the only multi-use, open space for 4,000 Suffolk Park Residents."

As another exemple of governmental anti-social behaviour, the sale would further the privatisation of publicly-owned facilities — what we call the 'commmons' — for state government and developer profit, and public loss.

THE PERILS OF INVISIBILITY

I searched online for the community garden — on the web, on Facebook, Google+ and on the Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network's (ACFCGN) online directory and map.

The only mention I found of the garden dates from 2011. That's on the website of the Permaculture Research Institute. Information provided is minimal, just a few lines without detail. In the project description, the entry says that the garden is at its beginning stage.

If anyone knows of an online presence for the community garden, could you let me know. Without that, Suffolk Park Community Garden is invisible to anyone out of the area.

PROVIDING ASSISTANCE

ACFCGN has lobbied for community gardens in distress in the past and could have — could still have at the time of writing — an opportunity to advocate for the garden and for the state government to cede the land to Byron Council for continuity as public open space. To do this, however, requires a request from the community garden.

With no visible means of contact that looks unlikely.

THE PERILS OF LOCALISM

The plight of the Suffolk Park community garden demonstrates what a fair food advocate said to me regarding the plethora of small community and fair food initiatives that were starting up at the time. He said that they were all good, local initiatives, however unless local initiatives are networked into broader networks and social movements, local stays local.

This is an issue not just for community gardeners but for the Transition Towns movement and, to a limited extent, for the permaculture design movement. Localism is not immune to the Law of Unintended Consequences — the localist-isolationism that occasionally comes out of Transition Towns was a reason some in the UK who are linked to the movement voted Brexit, to leave the European Union.

The reality today is that the issues we face at the local level are often linked to larger economic, political and social trends. Thus, the sale of the Suffolk Park land is linked to the political ideology of the NSW government. We might develop successful local solutions, but they are of no greater value if they are not available to others facing the same pressures to that they can adopt and adapt them and, when necessary, to defend them. Successful local responses might offer local solutions and stop something happening locally, but they are unlikely to stop the cause that merely goes away to make trouble elsewhere.

Isolated localism limits the sharing of experience and learnings. It also limits seeking help when it is needed. Were the Suffolk Park Community Garden a member of ACFCGN and listed on its map and directory of community gardens across Australia, it could have sought Network assistance in lobbying.

Suffolk Progress Association's Change.org petition to block sale of public open space at Suffolk Park:

[button_link url="https://www.change.org/p/don-t-sell-suffolk-park-s-village-green" target="blank" style="white" title="" class="" id="" onclick=""]Visit Suffolk Progress Association's Change.org petition[/button_link]

Suffolk Progress Association's Facebook page:

[button_link url="https://www.change.org/p/don-t-sell-suffolk-park-s-village-green" target="blank" style="white" title="" class="" id="" onclick=""]Visit Suffolk Progress Association's Facebook page[/button_link]

Suffolk Park Community Garden on Permaculture Research Institute website:

[button_link url="https://permacultureglobal.org/projects/543-suffolk-park-community-garden" target="blank" style="white" title="" class="" id="" onclick=""]Visit Sufffolk Community Garden listing[/button_link]

Join ACFCGN and register your garden on the ACFCGN map and directory:

[button_link url="http://directory.communitygarden.org.au/" target="blank" style="white" title="" class="" id="" onclick=""]Visit the ACFCGN map and directory[/button_link]

Published in NSW

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