WORDS & PHOTOS: Julianna Rozek
On yet another gloriously warm spring day, Horticultured ventured out to CERES, joined by Engineers Without Borders Unimelb. CERES Community Park is also known as the Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies (not Ceres the Roman agricultural goddess, or dwarf planet).
Their main goal is to promote environmental sustainability - something both of our clubs are highly interested in. CERES do this through a range of initiatives including community gardens, educational workshops on everything from beekeeping to kombucha making, renewable energy demonstrations, and developing and trialling new green technologies.
While there is heaps to see and do on the 9-acre site, the main activity of the day was a tour of the sustainable water initiatives with Nick the site manager. CERES harvest and manage water from their carpark, sealed roads, roofs and the broader catchment area. This water is used to water their organic farm, in the Merri Table cafe and in a dam supporting biodiversity.
Nick is directly involved in many of the projects and gave us a great understanding of not only what they are doing and why, but also the challenges.
One example is the permeable pavement which CERES have been investigating in conjunction with industry and university partners. While it looks great on paper - roads which allow water to filter through and reduce stormwater peaks and floods - the reality is expensive and hard to maintain. Without labour intensive management, permeable roads can quickly become impermeable.
Recently re-surfacing a main service road required CERES to align reality with their goals of environmental sustainability. The solution was a convention impermeable road made of partially recycled tar and printer cartridges, with features to direct most of the runoff to a dam.
CERES is a very valuable urban site for investigating new technologies. The opportunity afforded by 9 acres of land in an inner-city suburb, passionate employees and generous donors and partners is rare in a city of ever-increasing development and density.
One of the themes that surfaced in the tour was that CERES should be a model for the future and innovation, but short-term grant funding and harsh regulatory compliance meant that they continually rely on tried-and-tested solutions and technologies. If we are serious about addressing the problems presented by climate change and expanding populations perhaps we need to show a little more bravery.
Thank you Nick for being so generous with your knowledge while showing us the water-saving initiatives operating at CERES. We had a great time and learned lots from walking around the gardens with you.
Read all about it: MUC Garden and Burnley Student Association share updates on their activities.