Growing Community: Edible Gardens in Strata

With social distancing measures in place, many people have turned their hand to growing their own food as a way to beat the boredom and connect with nature while sheltering at home. From herb gardens to permaculture plots, gardening in strata can offer a range of opportunities to improve the liveability of urban spaces.

With owners and occupiers getting their hands dirty, it is timely for owners corporations to consider how their scheme’s by-laws and the latest proposed sustainability infrastructure amendments to the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015 provide for the practicalities of putting down roots in the city.

Balcony gardens

For many apartment dwellers, balconies or terraces are the ideal place to start an edible garden. Pot-plants and smart vertical gardens can mean that your home-grown herbs are only steps away from your kitchen.

Lot owners considering a balcony garden should review their scheme’s by-laws to check what kind of expectations the scheme has around the use of balconies. Some schemes may, for example, limit the size or number of plants you are able to have on your terrace, or have certain restrictions in place about the affect your balcony decor has on the appearance of the scheme.

Owners corporations encouraging balcony gardens should consider aspects such as appropriate drainage, weight and visibility restrictions. A section 136 by-law setting out the general rules for gardens on lot property can help to inform lot owners about the limitations and possibilities of outdoor lot areas for satisfying their green thumbs, without causing inconvenience to their neighbours.

Planter plots

Strata schemes with green strips large and small are creating landscaping that is edible as well as decorative. Whether it’s a raised plot or a wallside planter, converting common property spaces to gardens that lot owners can access is a way to build community, improve wellbeing and grow an attractive amenity.

If owners corporations are looking to grant lot owners their own patch or planter, a section 143 exclusive use by-law can clarify who has access to specific areas of the common property garden, as well as set out the conditions and obligations that apply to gardeners, such as repairing and maintaining their allotment.

Repurposing rooftops

What spot in the scheme is getting the best sun? Common property community gardens are an increasingly popular way to make use of external roof space. Greenhouse-style wintergardens can not only mean a bumper crop of hyper-local produce, but can also provide an attractive shared outdoor living and entertaining area.

For schemes that prefer to share a green space, a section 136 by-law can make provisions for the use and enjoyment of the garden, as well as set down procedures regarding how any edible produce is distributed or made available to lot owners.

Sustainability infrastructure

Under the new sustainability infrastructure amendments to the Act, which are anticipated to commence in late July 2020, if the purpose of an edible food gardens is to encourage lot owners to reduce the amount of food waste they send to landfill, increasing the recovery or recycling of materials, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and/or increasing the efficiency of the consumption of water, then the garden may be considered “sustainability infrastructure”.

This means that a by-law regarding the installation, maintenance or use of the garden may be approved by way of a “sustainability infrastructure resolution”, which requires a simple majority (50% or more) of persons present and eligible to vote at a general meeting to vote in favour.

For more information on sustainability infrastructure and the factors that owners corporation must consider prior to approving a sustainability infrastructure resolution, see our article Sustainability Infrastructure Amendment.

Our office has considerable experience in these matters and can assist owners corporations and lot owners with a range of motions and by-laws to help you to green your scheme.