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Govt deregulation could "cannibalise" food truck industry: Haese

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State Government plans to remove limits on the number of food trucks that can operate in the CBD and across the state could destroy the industry, not save it, Lord Mayor Martin Haese has warned.

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The State Government revealed plans over the weekend to strip councils of their powers to regulate food trucks in a number of areas.

The Government plans to change the law to remove councils’ ability to set a limit on the number of food trucks that can operate in their area and the hours in which they can trade, and enforce a consistent licence fee for food trucks across the state.

But councils would retain their ability to designate locations where food trucks can and cannot operate.

Haese told InDaily this morning that allowing any number of food trucks to trade in the CBD could be “bad for everyone” because both food truck operators and bricks-and-mortar city businesses would face increased competition.

Haese said the council broadly supports the Government’s plans to unify regulation of the food trucks industry across the state, but objected to the removal of a cap on food truck numbers.

“Total deregulation [of the cap on food truck numbers] could result in the mobile food vending industry cannibalising itself,” Haese said.

“Too much competition too early could hurt it.”

Haese said that food truck operators themselves had told him late last year that they did not want “open slather” on the number of food trucks in the CBD.

However, Labor MP Chris Picton told InDaily it was the role of the free market, not government, to determine the number of businesses.

“When it comes to the supply of businesses, that’s not generally the government’s role,” he said.

“It’s our job to support businesses of all kinds.”

Picton said imposing a single licence fee for food trucks across the state, removing restrictions on the types of food that can be served in them and opening up hours of operation would help the industry grow.

The Government also plans to allow mobile vendors to trade in train stations across the state.

Bricks-and-mortar city businesses have been complaining that the presence of food trucks was harming their lunchtime trade, and enjoyed lower operating costs – despite the publication of an Adelaide City Council report showing that the industry represented 0.15 per cent of the food and beverage trade in the CBD.

But Picton said if councils wanted to help businesses in their jurisdictions they could do so by reducing rates and fees.

He said the State Government taken “a lot of action” in recent years to help city businesses grow, including an overhaul of liquor licensing regulations and the axing of stamp duty on commercial property transactions.

Local Government Association CEO Matt Pinnegar told InDaily it was “supportive of any changes which will reduce red tape for both councils and businesses”.

“However, we believe councils should have the discretion to limit the number of food truck permits they issue to allow them to balance the interests of their communities,” he said.

The Government’s Position Paper on food trucks says it would also seek private investors to collaborate on a “food truck park” in or near the CBD, to permanently host food truck operators.

“By having at least one permanent food trucks site in the city that creates much more of a market [for the industry],” Picton said.

The council attracted the fury of Premier Jay Weatherill late last year when it decided to limit the number of food trucks allowed in the CBD at any one time to 10 (the limit was later clarified to mean 20) eschewing a “compromise” position agreed to between Haese and the State Government, and endorsed by the council in a committee meeting during the previous week.

Then-Deputy Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad suggested, at the time, that limiting the number of food trucks able to trade in the daytime would have no practical impact on mobile operators because a maximum of eight trucks are ever seen on Adelaide’s city streets anyway.

He said the move was, instead, designed to change a flawed “perception” of the food trucks industry, held by fixed city businesses, that the industry was larger than it was, and posed a greater threat than it did.

But he told the ABC over the weekend that “if the Government decides to open the tap completely on the number of food trucks in the city of Adelaide, that is not free enterprise when the Government gives one industry a leg up over another,” suggesting bricks-and-mortar industries should be financially compensated for the change.

More than half of the food trucks industry declined to re-apply for permits to trade after the council implemented its new regulations late last year.

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