A leading Victorian planning expert has questioned the need for a parliamentary inquiry into securing the state's food supply.
The Legislative Assembly Environment and Planning committee has begun an inquiry into "securing Victoria's food supply": it's due to report by the end of next year.
The inquiry will be chaired by Wendouree Labor MP Juliana Addison.
It's terms of reference include examining "the impacts of urban sprawl and population growth on arable land and the farming industry in Victoria."
But RMIT Professor in Sustainability and Urban Planning Andrew Butt said much of the work on protecting valuable agricultural land on Melbourne's fringe had already been done.
"The Planning Minister should make a decision - the work is there, the substance is there, the knowledge is there," Prof Butt said.
"We don't need to do any more - we know what to do, we have known what to do for 50 years."
Prof Butt was critical of the reasons behind the latest inquiry.
"Is this an attempt to stall it, or is it an attempt to bring it back around (into focus)?," he said.
"There are threats from urbanisation around Bacchus Marsh and Werribee south, for example - there are certainly some issues that need to be included in an inquiry like this," he said.
"But I feel the mechanisms to sort this out are available to the government - it just needs to make a good decision, which recognises the value of these (peri-urban) farming systems."
Government action on the Green Wedges and Agricultural Land (GWAL) protection legislation "just seems to be going nowhere - it just seems to be sitting on a shelf," he said.
"As far as I am aware, there is no-one working on it right now."
University of Melbourne Food Systems senior lecturer Rachel Carey said it was critical the 2018-19 consultation into Melbourne's GWAL was included in the inquiry's deliberations.
"I think its clear that all remaining farmland around the fringe of Melbourne should be protected and that did emerge from the previous consultation," Dr Carey said.
"That has become even more critical in the context of the subsequent COVID-19 pandemic and increasing shocks and stresses to food systems."
She said the university would be putting in a further submission, arguing for the implementation of the GWAL recommendations.
"I think we will be reinforcing the message of the importance of taking action," she said.
Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance president Tammi Jonas, Eganstown, said the issue wasn't just related to peri-urban Melbourne.
Ms Jonas and husband Stuart operate Jonai Farms, which produces pigs and cattle, and are currently involved in a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal case over planning permission for a micro-abattoir.
Neighbours have appealed a decision by Hepburn Shire to grant planning permission for the micro abattoir.
The application passed with 45 conditions and despite the 30 objections submitted to the council.
Jonai Farms was in a farm zone, but was coming under pressure as though it was in a peri-urban area, she said.
"We are not Green Wedge, there is no Green Wedge up here," she said.
"They (the government) have had so many reports on the impact of this - they should be reading Foodprint Melbourne reports very closely, which will tell them a lot of what is going on."
It seemed the review was about the expansion of Green Wedge, further and further from Melbourne.
"In principal, the Green Wedge is meant to protect things, but it seems to be almost the front runner to the urban growth zone," she said.
She said she was concerned about the definition of "high value" agricultural land.
'We know that smallholders actually grow food on quite a lot of marginal agricultural land - one of the problems is governments say land has already been subdivided, so we will keep subdividing it," she said.
"Small lots can be farmed, they are eight hectare lots, they would be brilliant for farming.
"We are concerned about how the inquiry will look at how to protect small lots, because we would argue that's how we are going to feed our cities, in future."
Peninsula Fresh Organics director, Wayne Shields, has a property at Baxter on the Mornington Peninsula.
He grows organic vegetables for the supermarket trade.
"What's changed?" Mr Shields said.
"They keep going over it, is there an outcome they are looking for?"
He said there was a lot of high-value agricultural land going under housing.
"Everybody wants a bit of certainty, everyone wants to know where they are going long term," he said.
"If you have certainty you can make those calls around things like infrastructure a lot easier."
And director of The Rural Planner planning firm, Linda Martin-Chew said it appeared the parliamentary review would have a larger focus than just the GWAL.
"In my view, the significance of the delay in implementing GWAL regulations for peri-urban agriculture is that it continues the uncertainty and cost that goes with engaging with a range of local government decision makers when applying for planning permits," she said.
"That increases the likelihood that agriculture is not seen as viable, so then the pressure is on to convert peri-urban land to non-agricultural use.
"Victoria's food supply and potential loss of agricultural and to non-agricultural uses, over time, probably wasn't looked at that closely, I think that was the kind of assumption that was made that led to that project," she said.
"It was happening, and therefore we needed to manage the planning regulations within 100 kilometres of Melbourne differently."
She said she was hopeful the inquiry would lead to potential legislation on the GWAL - "anything that lifts the profile of this issue would be useful."
Agriculture Victoria had received several reports on the issue, including one by Price Waterhouse Cooper that recognised agricultural land was being lost.
"In its conclusion, they decided we could just import food from across the border - and I had to look at the date when it was written," she said.
"It was 2022 (the height of COVID-19) so I don't know where they were living," she said.
Housing shortages were now putting even more pressure on agricultural land.
"This is my great fear - it's the easy option just to move the urban growth boundary again, and I am sure there is pressure in the background for that to happen," she said.
The state government has been contacted for comment.