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Presentation and Vibrancy - Reports

3.2

Ordinary Meeting - 04 May 2016

GREATER BENDIGO FOOD HUB FEASIBILITY

Document Information
Author

Matthew Kerlin, Coordinator Community Projects


Steven Abbott, Manager Community Partnerships

Responsible
Director

Patrick Jess, Acting Director Community Wellbeing

Summary/Purpose
This report seeks Councils endorsement of the Greater Bendigo Food Hub Feasibility
Study following community consultation.
Policy Context
Local Governments have been shown to be a key partner in many municipalities across
Australia to support and provide leadership in food advocacy through policy, projects and
programs. There is increasing awareness of how local government can demonstrate
leadership and support to provide environments where local food is valued and access is
made easier.
Similarly the State Government policy setting encourages sustainable opportunities
which result from building partnerships and forming new alliances and networks
grounded in local action and support for a new food system viable for the community,
business and farmers.
Council Plan Reference:
Action 3.1.2 Implement community strategies, policies and projects that support active
healthy living, including updating the planning framework and applying the results of the
Active Living Census.
Action 3.5.6 Continue to implement the Healthy Together Bendigo initiative.
Action 3.7.2 Support implementation of actions that build community resilience and selfreliance.
Liveability Indicators
Increase the proportion of people who meet recommended fruit and vegetable
dietary guidelines.
Increase social connection.

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Strategy Reference:
Greater Bendigo Food Security Report 2014
Implementation action 2 Investigate feasibility of a regional food distribution centre.
Background Information
Greater Bendigo has a thriving community food sector. Interest in growing, cooking and
swapping food and rescuing surplus food for charitable purposes has increased
significantly over the last decade. This has occurred in conjunction with the development
of the Bendigo and Heathcote Community Farmers Markets, the Bendigo Community
Food Network, and, more recently, the Bendigo Regional Food Alliance, plus the
development of school kitchen gardens and cooking programs and a greater
understanding of the importance of composting organic waste.
On a regional scale, food production in the Loddon region includes livestock and
horticulture, with vegetable, fruit and nut production totalling $419million of agricultural
product. This includes eighteen manufacturers and eight wholesalers that provide a wide
range of fresh produce in the region, with an estimated $91 million in local sales in the
Greater Bendigo region.
The emergence of the Bendigo community food sector has seen the development of
Food Fossickers, the producers and food retailers network, supported by the City of
Greater Bendigo to work together to increase the connection between farmers and
markets into the community. Many local producers are members of Food Fossickers and
supply local Farmers Markets. The community food sectors emergence has also seen
the development of the emergency food relief sector, including organisations such as
Foodbank Victoria, SecondBite and the establishment of Bendigo Foodshare.
The significantly high food insecurity rate in Bendigo (9.4% compared with 5.6% for
Victoria), combined with a high proportion of low income households (14.3% versus 12%
for Victoria), necessitates a focus on food security as a high priority for the City of
Greater Bendigo.
The City of Greater Bendigo has a strong history of collaboration around food within the
municipality and wider region. There are now several projects and initiatives forming a
coordinated food system agenda. Examples include the Greater Bendigo Food Security
Report, A Thought for Food Research Paper, Food Policy, Urban Agriculture Guidelines,
Rural Communities Strategy, Bendigo Regional Food Alliance, Food Information Portal,
Food Producers Research, Supermarket Research Project and the Food Hub Feasibility
Study.
The timing of the City of Greater Bendigo efforts on food sustainability is well aligned with
the communitys aspirations. The local and regional energy, passion and interest
(economic and social) in food are continuing to grow. Its clear that new food system
initiatives need to consider health and equity, environmental sustainability, building
strong networks for growers and businesses and create opportunities for the community
to come together, partner and participate.

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The draft feasibility study delivers on Councils commitment to implement the Food
Security Report that it adopted in 2014, and represents a strong planning approach to
responding to findings from the Active Living Census.

Previous Council Decision(s) Date(s):


May 2014 Council adopted the Bendigo Food Security Report
October 2015 Council resolved to:
1.

Release the draft food hub feasibility study for a public review and comment period
of 4 weeks.

2.

Receive a further report summarising community feedback and seeking Council


adoption of a proposed Food Hub model in order to support any Federal and State
funding opportunities as required.

Report
The Greater Bendigo Food Hub Feasibility Study (the Feasibility Study, Attachment 1)
was released for public comment from 8 October to 6 November 2015. This period was
extended beyond the four weeks in order to obtain broad feedback, present to various
stakeholders and allow officers to meet with steering group members ISPT, Bendigo
Foodshare and SecondBite (the Steering Group).
The Feasibility Study addressed three different levels of investigation. The first was a
specific Central Bendigo site that could be suitable for a food hub (the former Crystal Ice
site), the second was urban and the surrounding area of Bendigo, and the third was the
broader municipality and region.
In investigating these three levels, the study suggests the most sustainable models for a
food hub and presents the following:
A logical plan for staging the development and operations;
A practical and sustainable business model (including partnerships, financial
management, services and operations and their staging);
The required site characteristics, plus complementary facilities or property;
A proposal ready for the Start Up phase, including the required capital resources
for the project to be funding ready.
A management model, including the role of local government plus key
partnerships, including the currently presented public private partnership
opportunity;
The extent to which the project contributes to economic growth in the region, in
the form of a high level economic impact assessment; and
Understanding the extent to which the project supports or addresses
disadvantage in the region, in the form of a high-level social impact assessment.
During the public consultation period media releases were issued inviting feedback, staff
were available to discuss the plan and the plan was uploaded to the Citys website.

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In addition to passive feedback tools, briefings were held with key stakeholders such as
the Bendigo Food Alliance, Bendigo Foodshare, Victorian Local Government
Association, the Sustain Food Network and the Farming Advisory Committee, allowing
these groups the opportunity to discuss face to face with officers their thoughts on the
Feasibility Study.
Generally, comments were supportive of the Feasibility Study with some variation in
opinion as to priority areas of focus of a food hub. The table included as Attachment 2 to
this report contains a summary of the feedback received, a short officer response and a
recommendation about changes to the final Feasibility Study.
Individual members of the Steering Group have submitted their own feedback with
regards to the draft Feasibility Study, whilst also meeting as a collective to develop a
recommendation to Council following consideration of the public consultation. The
Steering Group believes strongly that a staged roll out of Model 1, as proposed in the
Feasibility Study, would be the desired way to commence any further investigation into
the Greater Bendigo Food Hub if Council were to endorse the Feasibility Study.
The Steering Group acknowledges that approaching further investigations in this matter
would not prohibit later expansion into Models 2 and 3, but are realistic that the first aim
should be to establish a sustainable hub model prior to investigating Models 2 and 3.
Priority/Importance:
Medium Developing the feasibility study was identified within the Greater Bendigo Food
Security Report (adopted by Council May 2014) as a short term action for
implementation.
Options/Alternatives:
Council has the opportunity to formally endorse the Feasibility Study. Alternatively, if
Council believes further consideration of any issue(s) are required or further consultation
is necessary it may seek further investigation into some or all aspects. Council may also
decide not to support the Feasibility Study and discontinue working towards a Greater
Bendigo Food Hub.
Consultation/Communication
Internal Consultation:
A range of internal units were consulted during the preparation of the study. This has
included understanding the planning parameters, mapping the regional food network,
modelling the financial and social impacts, and exploring the opportunities that a food
hub could provide. The units represented during this engagement include:
Active and Healthy Communities;
Strategy;
Economic Development;
Community Services;
Sustainable Environment;

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Environmental Health and Local Laws; and


Tourism.
External Consultation:
Community consultation is the subject of this report and the most recent feedback is
detailed in the Report section of this report.
In developing the Feasibility Study the community engagement process was prioritised
due to the multiple social benefits that such a process can generate. The approach
revolved around working with people to address the issue of food security affecting the
health and wellbeing of the community via:
Getting people involved and enthusiastic about a Food Hub for Bendigo;
Gaining broad based feedback and input about this opportunity from both
producers and consumer perspectives; and
Valuing what the stakeholders bring to the consultation process.
The community engagement involved primary research with local food producers,
community groups and organisations provided information about their needs for and
interest in a Food Hub.
This engagement included over 50 individual, semi-structured interviews (in-person and
by phone), 2 group interviews/information sessions (in person), surveys (on-line Survey
Monkey), and two public forums in the Town Hall.
Resource Implications
Previous Council Support:
Support for the project has occurred in the form of staff time to project manage the study.
External Funding Sources:
Funding from the State Government as part of the Healthy Together Bendigo program of
$30,000 has made the project possible.
Projected costs for future financial years:
The City of Greater Bendigo has been the lead organisation in project managing the
feasibility study and building the partnerships and community involvement as it
progresses. It will also be a critical partner in securing funding for the potential
development of the hub. The City will not however have a lead role in the operations or
ongoing management. Instead, it will be a key partner that supports the food hub and
connects and builds capacity within the community. The creation of a governance group
for the next phase of the project will see this group taking over the mantle for driving the
project, with the City an active member of this group, but not the lead agency.

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There is currently a budget bid of $25,000 in the Councils draft 2016/2017 budget to go
towards progressing design of a food hub, with the expectation that this sum would be
matched by external stakeholders.
Other than this design funding it is expected that projected costs to Council will be in the
form of staff time, as opposed to any capital or significant operational expenditure.
Conclusion
The timing of the City of Greater Bendigo efforts on food sustainability is well aligned with
the communitys aspirations. The local and regional energy, passion and interest
(economic and social) in food is continuing to grow.
The draft Feasibility Study delivers on Councils commitment to implement the Food
Security Report that it adopted in 2014, and represents a strong planning approach to
responding to findings from the Active Living Census.
Community consultation has been conducted and is generally supportive of the draft
Feasibility Study with no significant changes. Officers are now seeking Councils formal
endorsement of the Feasibility Study and authorisation to progress further investigations
into establishing a food hub; specifically commencing site investigations and
opportunities for grant funding.

Attachments
1.
2.

Greater Bendigo Food Hub Feasibility Study


Summary of Submissions Food Hub Feasibility Study

RECOMMENDATION
That Council:
1.

Endorse the Greater Bendigo Food Hub Feasibility Study; and

2.

Authorise officers to facilitate site investigations, funding opportunities and creation


of a governance structure for a Greater Bendigo Food Hub.

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