Auckland's 'green infrastructure' should include agricultural spaces - not only for food security but so it is a vibrant, livable city of the future, says Dr Clive Cornford from the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT).
Urban agriculture includes everything from private gardens and community gardens to "high-tech vertical farms producing high-value microgreens for high-end restaurants", Dr Cornford says.
While agriculture and a 'clean, green' reputation have been so important for New Zealand's prosperity, we now hear a lot more conversation about the shortage of builders and road workers than the lack of people skilled in landscaping, biodiversity and food-growing, he says.
Many young people see work in the primary industries as unskilled, poorly paid and irrelevant to them and it's time to revitalise the horticulture industry with a fresh approach.
"We need to be on this bus."
Although Dr Cornford's.initial idea was just to revitalise horticulture at MIT, he then thought why not be bold?
He hopes Manukau Institute of Technology's Hayman Park campus will become a centre for urban agriculture and food innovation, providing not only next-generation horticulture training but also a public space where Aucklanders can engage with food and how it's grown and even thrash out topics such as genetic engineering and nitrate leakage.
In the next 20 to 30 years, a lot of money will be invested in the infrastructure of South Auckland so now is an ideal time to start a conversation about developing agricultural spaces, he says.
"How are people going to feed themselves? What sort of identity are we going to create?' It's not just about growing food."