This article by Matt Agorist was originally published at thefreethoughtproject.com.
Residents who took part in a 7-year-long program to grow a massive community fruit forest watched in horror as government goons destroyed it to make way for a sidewalk in their relentless war on self-sustainability. All over a single permit.
Across the globe, an awakening is happening in which people are realizing the power of growing your own food. Edible landscapes are increasing throughout the world, however, when government gets involved, this self-sustainability through community gardening can often be thwarted.
The residents of Sunshine Coast, whose city council just unapologetically laid waste to a 7-year-old organically grown fruit tree forest spanning 11 streets, are finding this out the hard way.
A single complaint about a permit sent the city council into a fruit-hating tyrannical whirl spin — eventually leading to the destruction of the entire project.
As ABC reports, the Australian community has been at the center of a six-month stoush with the council after a complaint was made.
The council then ordered residents to obtain public liability insurance and a free permit in order to keep the trees on the footpaths.
To be clear, these trees were not planted by some rogue farmer on private property without the owner’s permission. The community banded together in a hugely popular project known as Urban Food Street (UFS) precinct.
The precinct has grown immensely over the years as residents volunteered their sidewalk areas for the trees to be grown. More than 200 people participated and benefitted from the fruit forest.
According to some residents, they were entirely unaware there were permit and insurance requirements until the city council showed up with trucks and mulchers to chop down all the trees.
Chris White, a chef and resident within the UFS precinct, said this thoughtless destruction of food was done to put in a sidewalk and put the residents in check.
“It’s a way now that they can put a concrete footpath in and it’s a show of force,” he said.
“I think it’s the kids that are going to be impacted greatest here because they’ve nurtured these trees, and now they’re not here.”
Through tears, White described how one of the children climbed up a tree to save its fruit before the city council chopped it down.
“She climbed inside the tree so that they couldn’t cut it down,” he said.
White then noted how the city council wouldn’t allow the residents to pick the fruit prior to destroying the trees, and they watched in sheer awe as government destroyed food.
“We didn’t have enough people on the ground to save the trees and they wouldn’t allow us to get the fruit,” White said.
According to ABC, Councillor Ted Hungerford said the felling of the trees was disappointing, but the council was left with no option after a resident had not applied for a permit nor opted to relocate the trees to private property.
Because the city claims ownership over the property in front of people’s homes where a sidewalk would go, they were required to get permits to have fruit trees in that space — and most everyone did. However, because one resident didn’t apply for a permit, the entire area was leveled.
Resident Gail Felgenhauer told ABC that the council was belligerent, bullying and discriminatory.
“We’ve had multiple meetings and presented multiple options and ideas for solving their imagined problems,” she said.
“They have discriminated against food.
“We have grown food here to share with the elderly in the area, with couples and families, and we’ve grown this for seven years.
“And all of a sudden the council tries to bully us into getting permits and then there were difficulties with insurance.
“Our position was that there were ornamentals [on verges] all over the Sunshine Coast area, so why discriminate against vegetables and fruit?”
Ms Felgenhaur said the citrus fruit from the felled trees would have been enough to provide about 12 months worth of jam for residents, according to ABC.
“And there was a dozen or more paw paws, beautiful paw paws … that lovely resident over there who has a physical disability, he ate the paw paws regularly,” she said.
“It’s just such waste.”
Queensland One Nation leader and Member for Buderim, Steve Dickson, said the council’s action was wrong in every sense of the word, ABC reports.
“This is renowned throughout the whole world, people love this, the local community loves this,” he said.
“What message is this sending to our children?”
The residents are furious and are calling out the utter hypocrisy of the council citing safety issues when other residents can put up shrubbery and stone walls — without a permit.
Pointing out more hypocrisy of the council, Dickson noted how unsafe the area is now because of all the stumps left by the cut trees.
“Not to mention if it’s all about safety, there’s big stumps hanging out of the ground, so when somebody walks along there and trips over those stumps, who’s wrong then?
“Seriously, nobody has thought this through.”
“Why is food the reason you have to get a permit when people can grow ornamentals and rock walls wherever they want and not get a permit? That’s the issue,” Dickson said.
After destroying the food, and in spite of the backlash, the council shows no signs of backing down and promises to go after anyone who dares grow food.
“They said if I don’t go through the correct channels that’s what will happen [trees will be cut down] and I’ll get a $600 fine.”