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"Alarmed" Weatherill slams council on food trucks

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Premier Jay Weatherill says he would be “very alarmed” by any Adelaide City Council policy that threatens the city’s nascent food truck industry.

Yesterday, a dozen city food truck operators warned “many – if not all” of them would be driven out of business if fee hikes and expanded exclusion zones for mobile vendors proposed by the council were implemented.

Weatherill told InDaily this morning that “about this particular issue, I am alarmed”.

“We would be very alarmed if this represented a lack of commitment by the Adelaide City Council to the vibrant city agenda,” he said.

“It’s inconsistent with the approach that I thought the new Lord Mayor (Martin Haese) wanted to take, which was basically to continue that agenda.”

Asked if his Government would consider intervening, Weatherill responded: “We’d prefer not to have to”.

Weatherill said he did not understand “why the council would want to intrude themselves into what is essentially a competitive market”.

“I’m all for intervening in markets, but only in the public interest,” he said.

Haese told InDaily this morning that he had spoken to Weatherill about his concerns, and that the council was “very committed to the vibrant city agenda”.

He said he would call an “informal meeting” with food truck operators to discuss their concerns.

“I don’t view this as the council intervening in the market.

“I assured the Premier that any of those concerns are not the case.”

Haese said “the proposed policy settings (involved) modest price rises in years two and three” of a food truck’s operation and that proposed discounts for new entrants into the program – especially for fixed business operators – made it “very attractive”.

Weatherill said the food trucks sector was allowing young entrepreneurs to get their start in business, and that he did not understand the public interest in policy change that would advantage “one competitor over another”.

“The food trucks sector is unleashing some innovation, which has ultimately been been a good thing,” said Weatherill.

“We want to encourage more young people to have a crack.

“Competitive pressure (from food trucks) will lead to everybody lifting their game.

“The very worst possible outcome is that Adelaide gets a reputation for essentially turning its back on the changes that have been made, and that we lose momentum.

“There’s always going to be vested interests in Adelaide that want to stop new things from happening – we saw that with small bars, we’ve seen it with Renew Adelaide, we’ve seen it with food trucks, and it’s really important that we keep pressing ahead.

“We need change and we need vibrancy; existing businesses have to change (and) new businesses have to open up.

“It’s really the difference between old Adelaide and new Adelaide – and we’re absolutely on the side of new Adelaide.”

Peel Street Food Trucks-2202

Weatherill said that he had “an excellent working relationship with the Lord Mayor” and that Haese was “committed to many of the vibrant city objectives that we pursue”.

But the Premier said he had “passed on his concerns” about the food truck issue, and encouraged Haese to meet with food truck operators to discuss their concerns.

Council consultation on proposed changes to its mobile food vending program closes at 5pm today.

The changes proposed by the council include increasing the exclusion zone from fixed city businesses from 25 metres to 50 metres – effectively excluding food trucks from most city squares – increasing fees for food truck operators and offering discounts on fees for fixed city businesses looking to trial mobile food vending.

Haese told InDaily he was working with council members to “champion” an exemption from the 50-metre rule for food trucks operating in city squares.

During a Property Council panel debate at the Festival Theatre yesterday, Adelaide city councillor Natasha Malani described the food truck issue as “a bit of a storm in a teacup”.

“We’ve set some guidelines around food vans,” she said.

“Let’s not forget that bricks and mortar (establishments) are the heart of our city…bthe success stories are when food vans and bricks and mortar work together.”

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