Brisbane City Council bulldozes four-day-old unapproved St Lucia community garden, devastating locals
A four-day-old ‘guerilla garden’ is back to being a patch of dirt and grass after a Brisbane council bulldozed the site due to safety concerns.
The St Lucia veggie patch was erected on “public land” by community group Growing Forward on Friday, built with the intentions of helping struggling families cope with the rising cost of living.
Residents were encouraged to plant and maintain seedlings so they could prosper into healthy fruits and vegetables, which would later be harvested free-of-charge.
It was the latest vegetable garden to be created by the community group which has set up several other non-for-profit developments across the state.
But the seedlings at the St Lucia patch, located on the corner of Carmody road and Townley street, barely got to see the light of day with the site being bulldozed on Monday.
Its destruction comes after the Brisbane City Council issued a notice to cease the site due to lack of community consultation, public safety issues and not having a council permit.
Councillor James Mackay alleged the community group proceeded with digging up the garden last week “without alerting Council, let alone getting it approved”.
“While I applaud their energy, I really wish they had called me first. We could’ve used their energy to re-establish the garden beside Meals on Wheels, just 500m away,” he said in a Facebook post.
“Instead, without community consultation, Council permits or safety in mind – they’ve got exposed star picket ends etc – they’ve just gone ahead. What a terrible waste of resources.”
As per Council policy, the $2000 site was “cleared” by council workers who were accompanied by Queensland Police, while heartbroken residents watched on.
Meanwhile those who weren’t there to watch took to social media to voice their sadness.
“I’ve had someone I love dearly live in St Lucia while poor. Just around the corner from the garden. Fresh, free food and engagement would have meant something to them,” one woman said.
“Shame on those who are complicit in the bulldozing of this garden – built by locals in a time when food sovereignty is an essential conversation. We can’t keep waiting around for Council to plant free food! How has that worked out so far?”
Another local argued the council had taken away the opportunity for all people to have a garden, given some weren’t allowed to have their own due to living in rentals or unsuitable areas.
“Very sad. Sorry to everyone who was excited for an accessible garden near their house. Everyone deserves a garden, not just property owners,” they said.
“Many neighbourhoods have layabout landlords with nothing better to do than stomp on flowers. Their right to exploit and exclude won’t last forever.”
While Growing Forward is frustrated their good intentions were overlooked, they’ve argued the council’s actions won’t stop them from building more gardens elsewhere.
“While thousands of people sleep in their cars, under bridges, agree to outrageous rent increases just to keep a roof over their heads, and skip meals to make their rent or house payment, the state’s priority is bulldozing community gardens,” the group said in a post to Facebook.
“For the four days it lived, the St Lucia community garden was a place where community came together, where people talked to their neighbours, where parents showed their kids how to grow their own food.
“It was a place where people could self-organise to grow their own food collectively for free, and perhaps start to think about how we can do other things collectively too, without asking the government to do it for us.”
The organisation also explained why they rejected Councillor Mackay’s offer to build a new garden near food service site Meals on Wheels, saying it wasn’t suitable for a “variety of reasons”.
“The councillor would also not let the food be free, or people use the space for free … and typical set-up costs for an ‘official’ garden is $60,000 plus, while this one cost less than $2000,” it said.
“We scouted the entire area and this was the most suitable spot, and the most-suggested spot during doorknocks of the neighbourhood.”
The council also copped backlash from those who were against the site.
While they applauded its quick response to rectifying the situation, many argued the extent the council went to with the bulldozers and police presence was a waste of time and taxpayer money.
“What a bloody waste of resources! They could have easily pulled it down with a shovel and wheelbarrow, less damaging to existing grass,” one resident said.
Another added: “Thank you Council, glad to see you acted promptly. Sad that Council had to spend ratepayers’ money and precious police time was wasted.”
Meanwhile another woman took aim at the council’s lack of response for other environment-related issues.
“It‘s interesting that a bobcat can be organised so quickly to tear down a garden, but in your posts below, people are waiting over a year for new trees on their street! How very strange,” she said.
While another garden is unlikely to crop up in the park, Growing Forward is asking its supporters to donate to its fundraiser so it can continue building gardens in other areas for those who are less fortunate.
“This garden cost us nearly $2000 to build. None of us get paid for this or receive any financial benefit and we never will. All money given to the collective goes straight to gardening materials, which grows food (and) is free for anyone who needs it,” the organisation said.
“So if you’d like to see more community, more local gardens, (and) more annoyed councillors, chip in to our fundraiser if you can, or share it if you can’t.”
News.com.au has contacted the Brisbane City Council for additional comment.
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