A Place for Wandering Cooks in South Brisbane – FREE EVENT
When building resilient food systems is the focus of your work, as it is ours, the prospect of having affordable, enduring tenure to do the work is a dreamy aspiration. So Food Connect’s bid to buy their warehouse with their community is both inspiring, and if I’m to be completely honest, a little sobering as well.
Inspiring: because it makes me ponder what we could achieve if we owned our building; if we didn’t have to set aside $12,000 a month, as we do now, to pay our rent.
Up until the Food Connect Shed Campaign, I’d accepted this $12K as the price we need to pay to stay central, to be accessible to our audience of diners and drinkers, whose dollars are the essential subsidy to our free events and our food maker incubation. Without our busy nights at the bar to support us, frankly, our densely populated food incubator would be kaputt.
But imagine if that $12K could be funnelled, not to rent, but to programs that increase economic stability in our cohort, to strengthening connections between our small makers and local ethical farmers, to designing ways to include more marginal food makers, to developing urban food growing prototypes… imagine that.
Sobering: because then I do the maths.
To buy our building we wouldn’t have to raise what Food Connect needs to raise ($2 million), which is already a hefty effort; we’d have to raise over $15 million dollars. And even if we managed this, think of the land tax our community would now owe every year for the privilege of owning a piece of land in the inner city zoned to accommodate 30 storeys of residential building. Currently this stands at upward of $250,000 a year for our landlord. So our rent wouldn’t disappear once we owned our building, it would increase to $21,000/month, just to cover this tax!
Dense living is an important strategy for dealing with increasing urban populations. If we don’t build upwards to accommodate more people then we’ll need to expand outwards and eat up even more agricultural land in the process (and stop having babies… and limit migration… all of which clearly carry their own abhorrent consequences). The monster that is our world’s population growth needs tools to mould the shape of our urban fabric, and Land Tax is one of these. But my question is: do they need to be so crude as to dis-incentivise the activities that make our inner city green, rich and diverse, like Wandering Cooks?
We don’t want to leave. I don’t think the inner city wants us to leave. So what to do?
Don’t worry, I didn’t stay demoralised for long. We’re working on something.
And part of this is a discussion between myself and a panel… let’s call them the brave and embedded practitioners of the urban realm:
– Hon Jackie Trad (Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, and our local State Member)
– Michael Zaicek (Commercial Manager of Aria Property Group, the key economic player behind Fish Lane’s development);
– Seleneah More (on behalf of West End Community Association, which has been a strong advocate for local voices in the development of our end of 4101);
– Damian Dewar (Manager of Future Communities, City of Port Phillip, Victoria, to shed some light on how governments have managed this issue in other places)
We’ll all get the chance to ask (and answer) the thorny questions then. Are you coming?