Autumn 2021

Article: Andy Hrast (Canberra Organic – Autumn 2021)

Andy Hrast

Happy New Year to all our COGS members. We hope 2021 will be much better than 2020.

It has already started off promisingly, with the big and really good news for COGS that the 10-year licence from the ACT Government for nine of our gardens has been signed (*). I want to take this opportunity to thank Peter Weddell for taking the lead in the negotiations for the licence. This is a really excellent outcome.

The signing of the licence with the ACT Government gives COGS the opportunity to move ahead with certainty. The ‘Strategic Workshop’ involving the COGS Executive members and Garden Convenors, and to which all members were invited to contribute to in the last edition of the magazine, was held on 6 February 2021. I will provide a full report on the outcomes of the workshop in the winter 2020 edition of Canberra Organic.

From this workshop, I am hopeful that we will be able to develop a shared vision for the future of COGS, and particularly aims and actions for the next five to 10 years. At this workshop the key areas considered were:

  1. What is the purpose of COGS?
  2. What is the best management structure for COGS?
  3. What do we want the operation of our gardens to look like in 5–10 years?
  4. How should COGS engage with the ACT Government and the wider community?

It will be up to the COGS Executive Committee to take the ideas that emerge and transform them into reality. That will only happen if we all work together.

The second item of good news is that COGS is fortunate in being in a healthy financial position due to the plot fee increase, low expenditures due to COVID-19, and of course the rain which has kept our water use and water bills down.

With the certainty of the 10-year licence and our healthy financial position, now is a good time for Garden Convenors and Committees to dust off their plans for sheds, shelters, water reticulation, fencing and tools etc. I look forward to the exciting proposals I have heard discussed for COGS gardens being brought forward to the Executive Committee for funding. Don’t be shy about your funding proposals! The third item of good news is the weather. The gardens look so much better than this time last year. As I write this in mid-January, I think of the contrast with last year when we were struggling with the heat, dry and smoke, with some us having real concerns about the bushfire situation here and on the south coast on NSW.

By comparison the gardens this year look lush, with so many good harvests already and the promise of even more bountiful harvests as the season progresses.

Unfortunately, the wet and relatively mild season so far has meant weeds. I am sure we are all fed up with the weeding — I know I am! It has also meant that our lawn mowers have worked hard to keep the grassed areas under control. It is good to see the cooperation and involvement of all garden members working together, to keep our gardens looking so good.

In the community landscape, the re-election of ACT Labor and the election of six ACT Greens; members in the Legislative Assembly presents COGS with some great opportunities. I have been in touch with Minister Steel’s office with a view to a meeting. In particular I am keen to discuss the growing demand for community garden plots as the residential nature of Canberra moves away from the large house block to townhouse and apartment living.

I have also had discussions with other like-minded organisations about the possibility of developing a united position on community gardens to take to the ACT Government. It is early days, but I will keep members informed as things develop.

In news of our members, congratulations to the COGS Secretary and Betty Cornhill gardener, Minh Chu, who has become a regular guest on the ABC gardening program on Saturday mornings. Well done! Congratulations also to Ange McNeilly from Charnwood community garden who was recently awarded with the Friends of the National Arboretum Canberra Volunteer of the Year Award 2020 (see separate article).

I also want to thank all the people who have worked so hard to make a success of the three recent COGS events, the Annual General Meeting (AGM), the Christmas Party and the ACT Government licence signing ceremony, all held at the Kambah community garden. Thank you to everyone for your efforts, they are much appreciated.

It is also wonderful to hear that a number of gardens have held Christmas and Australia Day parties. I strongly encourage garden committees to develop the ‘community’ part of our community gardens. Any excuse for a party will do!

Finally, readers will have noted the advice elsewhere in the magazine that the COGS AGM will be held on 21 March 2021. This AGM has come around quickly after the March 2020 AGM had to be postponed until August 2020 due to COVID-19. That time will still count as a full term and therefore, all positions will become vacant.

Like all organisations, COGS and the COGS Executive Committee must continually renew itself and refresh itself if it is progress. Now is a wonderful time to join the COGS Executive Committee and shape the future of COGS. Closer to the date there will be the opportunity to nominate to stand for election to the COGS Executive Committee. Please consider putting your name forward and getting involved.

If you have any questions about the Executive Committee and what is involved, please do not hesitate to get in touch. I would be very happy to discuss (0408 247 360).

I look forward to seeing as many members as possible to the AGM on 21 March 2021 at 2.00pm, this year held at the Mitchell community garden. \

In the meantime, happy gardening,

— Andy Hrast

* The remaining three COGS gardens (Dickson, Kaleen and O’Connor) are held under separate individual arrangements with Dickson College, Kaleen High School and the O’Connor Uniting Church respectively.