Covid-19 has sparked a rush to establish home gardens and a desire for self-sufficiency, but how successful are these ‘grow your own’ attempts and is there a risk that people will find themselves out of pocket?
The results have just come in from a state-wide citizen science project called Edible Gardens led by the University of South Australia, undertaken prior to the pandemic, and the news is encouraging.
Researchers investigated the productivity, efficiency and potential financial savings of almost 100 home food garden areas established by 34 people in South Australia.
Overlooking garden setup costs, 79 per cent of people who established vegetable gardens were estimated to save more than $250 on their annual grocery bills, according to Dr Georgia Csortan.
Dr Csortan, a UniSA expert in urban food production, says considering the median setup costs of a food garden ($500), 65 per cent of the study gardens were also calculated to break even within five years.
Applying a wage-rate to time spent growing a food garden, the researchers found that just over 1 in 6 of the study gardeners produced enough food to cover their ongoing garden costs and effectively pay themselves the Australian minimum wage of $18.93 per hour.
“This is the first time that the economic value of sustainable home vegetable gardens has been quantified to this level of detail in Australia,” Dr Csortan says.
The results are even more significant in the era of Covid-19 as people self-isolate, quarantine, look for ways to save on food budgets and find new ways to occupy themselves during the lockdown.
“The swell of new food gardeners is a wonderful outcome from the restrictions of the Covid-19 crisis, but we need to ensure their efforts are not in vain,” Dr Csortan says. “How good would it be to come out of this pandemic with households and communities that are more resilient, more productive and more inter-connected than ever?”
“If done well, home gardens are an excellent way for people to remain productive, get in touch with nature, connect with the community and educate children in tangible, fun ways about where our food comes from.
“While social distancing means we cannot reach out physically to our neighbours and friends, home gardens give people the opportunity to share or swap their produce and exchange tips, maintaining that human connection.”
Dr Csortan says urgent, coordinated education programs are needed in productive gardening to help new home gardeners ramp up their food production and avoid common mistakes.
She says growing food is not as time consuming as most people think, requiring on average just over an hour’s attention each week.
Installing the right irrigation system is crucial, to save time and money, and growing food in different ways (a mixture of inground beds, raised beds, wicking beds, fruit trees or keeping chickens) helps to provide more consistent and diverse year-round harvests.
Small businesses doing it tough due to the COVID-19 pandemic are encouraged to sign up for free-of-charge webinars funded by the NSW Government.The webinars are being run by small business advisory program Business Connect, and address key subjects to help deal with COVID-19, including how to create a ghost kitchen and how to maximise cashflow.Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope said there were more than 60 Business Connect webinars and they will provide invaluable information for businesses that are facing unprecedented conditions.“We know small businesses are struggling at the moment and the impacts of drought, bushfires and now coronavirus have been significant,” he said.“These webinars are run by small business expert presenters and they will give business owners insights into how they can make it through the current situation.“A number of businesses have successfully managed to pivot their operation and some of these webinars will provide advice on how to do that.”The webinar topics include:
· Turn your restaurant into a profitable ghost kitchen
· Maximising cashflow
· Business disruption - innovation
· Diversify your creative income
· Reinvent your business in troubled times
· Marketing to pivot your businessSome of the webinars are targeted at businesses in regional areas and some are in foreign languages to cater for multicultural businesses.Business Connect advisors have assisted more than 28,000 businesses over the past three years, providing advice and skills training for small businesses.As a result, business owners have reported increased confidence and stronger finances. Those businesses have also created and supported more than 15,000 new jobs since 2017.The NSW Government announced on April 19 it was injecting more than $14 million into Business Connect to help small and medium businesses navigate this challenging time.As part of the funding boost, $4.6 million was allocated to engage an additional 30 advisors to support businesses on top of $9.8 million to ensure the program continues for another 12 months.
The Australian Government today launches the new voluntary coronavirus app, COVIDSafe.
The app is an important public health initiative that will help keep you, your family, and your community safe from further spread of coronavirus through early notification of possible exposure.
“Australians are doing an extraordinary job to flatten the curve and contain the spread of the coronavirus, but we cannot be complacent,” said Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
“The Chief Medical Officer’s advice is we need the COVIDSafe app as part of the plan to save lives and save livelihoods. The more people who download this important public health app, the safer they and their family will be, the safer their community will be and the sooner we can safely lift restrictions and get back to business and do the things we love.”
The health initiative uses technology to automate and improve what state and territory health officials already do manually. COVIDSafe will speed up the process of identifying people who have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with coronavirus, quickly stopping further spread of the virus in the community.
Minister for Health, Greg Hunt thanked Australians for their actions during the pandemic, and said the app is part of the three key requirements for easing restrictions: Test, Trace and Respond.
“We thank Australians for their help in adhering to the difficult but life-saving social distancing measures,” Minister Hunt said.
“We are now calling on all Australians to download the COVIDSafe app to help protect you, your family and your community from further spread of COVID-19. This will be necessary if we are to start easing some of the difficult social distancing restrictions we have had to put in place” Minister Hunt said.
“It will be one of the critical tools we will use to help protect the health of the community by quickly alerting people who may be at risk of having contact with COVID-19. If you’d been exposed, you’d want to know, wouldn’t you?”
The app has received strong support from states and territories and the health sector, which recognise it is a valuable tool that will enhance the ability to respond rapidly to local outbreaks, and the confidence to know the virus is not silently spreading throughout communities.
A new determination issued by the Minister for Health under the Biosecurity Act will ensure information provided voluntarily through the App will only be accessible for use by authorised state and territory health officials. Any other access or use will be a criminal offence.
Minister for Government Services, Stuart Robert described the App as being developed with one purpose: to stop the spread of coronavirus.
“Once installed and running, the COVIDSafe app uses Bluetooth to look for other phones that also have the app installed,” Minister Robert said.
“To be effective, users should have the app running in the background when they are coming into contact with others. Your phone does not need to be unlocked for the app to work.”
“It then securely makes a ‘digital handshake’, which notes the date and time, distance and duration of the contact. All information collected by the app is securely encrypted and stored in the app on the user’s phone. No one, not even the user, can access it.”
“Unless and until a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, no contact information collected in the app is disclosed or able to be accessed. Then, once the person agrees and uploads the data, only the relevant state or territory public health officials will have access to information. The only information they are allowed to access is that of close contacts – when a person has come within approximately 1.5 metres of another app user for 15 minutes or more – in their jurisdiction,” Minister Robert said.
Welcoming the announcement, Australian Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy said COVIDSafe is set to be a major tool in streamlining the process of identifying contacts after a person tests positive for coronavirus.
“Finding out quickly means you can quarantine yourself or be treated much faster, protecting your family and friends from possible infection, and slowing the spread of the virus,” Professor Murphy said.
“Without this technology, health officials have to rely on people being able to remember who they have been around, and being able to provide contact details for those people.”
“It is important to note that only state and territory health officials will be able to use the information.”
“COVIDSafe only keeps contact information for 21 days. This covers the maximum incubation period for the virus and the time it takes for someone to be tested for COVID-19,” Professor Murphy said.
“Once the coronavirus pandemic is over, and Australia no longer needs the app, the app and the information on it will be deleted permanently. No virus, no app,” Minister Hunt said.
Coronavirus is a serious and contagious respiratory disease with symptoms including fever, a dry cough, a sore throat and shortness of breath that has infected more than 2.8 million people globally and led to 200,000 deaths. In Australia around 6,700 people have contracted coronavirus and sadly 82 people have died.
The App can be downloaded from the App stores.
Aussie charity, the Rapid Relief Team (RRT), has partnered up with the NSW Government to deliver thousands of donated food boxes to families in COVID-19 self-quarantine.
The NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro and the NSW Government have allocated $250,000 for the RRT to provide 4,500 Food Boxes to NSW individuals and families.
Over the past weeks, the RRT Food Box initiative has been supporting people in self-quarantine by providing food boxes to Australians who may be struggling or otherwise unable to leave their home.
Thousands of food boxes are now being safely packed by RRT volunteers from the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church (PBCC), to be delivered to individuals and families all across NSW.
Most recipients are temporary or casual workers, or the elderly, and who are in self-quarantine at home.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro said the RRT Food Boxes are desperately needed in regional and rural NSW where services such as home delivery are not available.
“Every day RRT volunteers are caring for the community and have done so for many years, through their various food provision services.
“I’m delighted that the NSW Government has partnered with RRT to get food boxes to those in need, particularly in remote areas where we don’t have access to the same services as those in the cities.”
RRT Managing Director Ron Arkcoll said care and compassion were at the core of RRT’s outreach programs and said they were thrilled to be able to offer a small gesture of help to those who needed it.
“While we know the covid-19 crisis continues to throw up never-before-seen challenges for us all, we are so humbled to be able to provide a small amount of relief to NSW families,” he said.
“Our volunteers will continue to step up to the challenge and are committed to supporting our local communities through these tough times.
“Whether that’s filling a family pantry with some staple food items or putting a smile on the face of a neighbour – from an appropriate distance! – we hope these small gestures go towards providing some relief.
“I want to thank the NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro and the NSW Government for their assistance and for always putting the people of NSW first - and I also want to thank our RRT volunteers who go above and beyond every single time,” he said.
The RRT is currently supporting people in self-quarantine in NSW who have been referred by Service NSW, and while the initiative is live in Queensland, are working to continue to expand support to other states.
If you live in NSW and need support, please call 13 77 88 who will assess your situation and organise support through this initiative should you qualify.
New regulations published in NSW will give immediate effect to the NSW Government’s COVID-19 rental relief measures, reflecting the National Cabinet’s Code of Conduct agreed to by all states.
Minister for Finance and Small Business Damien Tudehope and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the changes will support and guide tenants and landlords in negotiating agreements.
They are part of the NSW Government’s package of support for tenants and landlords which includes up to $440 million in land tax relief announced on April 13, to be split approximately 50-50 between the commercial and residential sectors.
“This is about adopting a national framework in NSW so agreements can be reached between parties and more businesses stay in business and people stay in jobs,” Mr Tudehope said.
“These new regulations require landlords to negotiate rent relief agreements with tenants in financial distress due to COVID-19 by applying the leasing principles in the National Code of Conduct.”
Mr Tudehope said the regulations - which also apply to commercial leases - would provide a clear way forward for tenants and landlords to reach agreements.
“We’re taking action to provide certainty for landlords and tenants and enshrine into law the measures needed right now as agreed by the National Cabinet. If there is more the Government needs to do, we will address those gaps where possible.”
To facilitate these changes, and deliver increased mediation and advisory services to commercial parties, the NSW Small Business Commission will be bolstered with extra staff and an injection of $10 million from the $1 billion Working for NSW Fund.
Regulations relating to commercial leases were expedited under amendments passed by the NSW Parliament in March, which allow the Government to make laws that are reasonable to protect the health, safety and welfare of lessees or tenants during COVID-19.
New regulations to assist landlords and tenants in the residential sector were also published last week by the Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation.
Mr Perrottet said land tax relief would be available within weeks, with landlords also able to access a further land tax deferral for any outstanding amounts for a three-month period if they’ve claimed the land tax concession.
“Eligible landlords will be able to apply for a land tax concession of up to 25 per cent of their 2020 land tax liability on relevant properties so long as they pass on the full savings in the form of a rent reduction to their tenants,” Mr Perrottet said.
The commercial lease policy will apply to business tenants with a turnover of less than $50 million that experience a 30 per cent (or more) reduction in revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If circumstances have not significantly changed, tenants still need to fulfil the terms of their agreements.
For residential tenancies, households must show they have suffered a loss of income equal to or greater than 25 per cent due to COVID-19 and are struggling to make rental payments.
The National Cabinet Mandatory Code Of Conduct - SME Leasing Principles During COVID-19 was released by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday, 7 April.
It is expected eligible landlords will be able to apply for land tax rebates from Service NSW from Monday, 4 May 2020.
More information is available via Service NSW, Visit: www.service.nsw.gov.au
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