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Council "saved the food trucks"

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The Adelaide City Councillor who spearheaded a controversial push to cap the number of CBD food trucks says his intervention has “saved the program”.

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Deputy Mayor Houssam Abiad told InDaily criticism of the councillors who voted for the plan, which would see only ten mobile vendors allowed in the city during daytime trading, was “unfair”, because without the crackdown food truck owners would have been targeted by even more restrictive regulations.

“This is not axing the program; this is saving the program,” he said.

“The councillors that have voted for this are the progressive councillors…We’re not shrinking the industry, we’re saving the industry.”

Abiad revealed he would call a meeting with all mobile food vendors and fixed businesses in the next week, saying: “We want to understand the level of impact our decision will have on them.”

The move came as Lord Mayor Martin Haese told a Local Government Association conference the food truck ban was about “cutting red tape”.

“We want to make it easier, we don’t want to make it more difficult,” he said.

Haese said the original council plan for regulating mobile vendors was 40 pages long and “I don’t think anybody understood it”.

“We’ve brought 40 pages down to eight…we just want to make it more simple,” he said.

“That’s part of the process.”

He told fellow mayors their councils should be doing their best “to identify what sectors of our own areas are growing, which are stagnating and which are in decline”.

“It’s not our job to play favourites, but you do need to know where emerging businesses are and how to nurture them,” he said.

Abiad said the nascent food truck sector was a “micro-economy”; an “incubator program” that had to be carefully managed over the next five years in a “very, very fragile market”.

He said Rundle Mall pop-ups would continue to operate, and there would also be scope for the program to grow.

“As capacity grows, we’ll keep growing the program,” he said.

Following Premier Jay Weatherill’s attacks on the council over the ten-truck cap, Abiad lamented that it had been “put out in the public that we’re against” the food trucks, and “that’s completely inaccurate”.

“Some of the other councillors that have accused us of factionalism…they’ve gone out and said these food trucks are a poison to our society, and now they’re out trying to present themselves as people that want to save the program,” he said.

“They want to dismantle it and charge commercial rates for the program.”

Abiad said “what we’ve done is listened to our ratepayers”.

“Small businesses are struggling out there,” he said.

“I, 100 per cent, subscribe to free enterprise and the role of Government to provide all the tools to get people to go out and compete in the free market…we’re elected by the rate payers of Adelaide to represent their views, to listen to their concerns, but in no way are we limiting innovation.”

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