Couple happy over food van change of heart

Liz Bell

A HARD-working couple who run a takeaway business in Golden Beach are celebrating the news that Wellington Shire Council has backed out of a trial for new mobile food van permits in the town during the busy summer period.

Golden Beach Takeway owners Katrina Nuttall and Andrew Capper feared that plans by two mobile food van operators to cater to the booming summer holiday population would have taken away their important seasonal trade, and would ultimately force them to close.

It is believed the mobile food van trial will still go ahead at other beachside locations, including Loch Sport, Port Albert and Seaspray.

News of the council’s plan to trial new permits in the seaside village only came to light last Thursday, when council officers visited the town to distribute information to businesses.

But within hours Golden Beach Takeaway’s Facebook page was swamped by posts of support and indignation at the plan, and by Friday the idea had been canned, at least for Golden Beach.

The couple, who took on the business in 2016, almost by default to help the previous owners who were struggling after a set of unfortunate events, said they were elated by the reprieve.

“We didn’t take this on to be rich or make our fortune, we did it as a lifestyle choice for us and out children and grandchildren,” Ms Nuttall said.

“Since taking it on, we have run the business seven days a week, a minimum of 12 hours every day for 364 days of the year.

“Every step of the way we have had to fight to get the simplest of things to happen, even a second rubbish bin out the front.”

There are already two takeaway premises in Golden Beach, and Ms Nuttall said the summer trade was essential, as patronage from local residents was not enough to cover rent, rates and bills through the cold, hard months of winter.

“If the cream of summer was taken from us we wouldn’t be able to afford the rent across the next year without once again digging into our own pockets,” she said.

“If the pilot scheme had gone ahead, we would not have been able to renew our lease, and we would most likely have to seek work in Sale.

“We wouldn’t have fought council on this one; as we stated once, if the vans come we go.”

They said they were committed to the Golden Beach community.

“Andrew and I love it here and we love the people and community, so it’s fantastic news to hear that we won’t be forced to move on,” Ms Nuttall said.

A council spokeswoman said there had been an increase in traders applying to operate food vans in recent years, and to better manage the demand, council had proposed a 12-month pilot to direct roadside traders to specific council-managed locations across the municipality.

She said Golden Beach was removed from the pilot after consultation with existing traders in the town.

“When considering how to best manage roadside traders, council considered how to strike a balanced approach to management of roadside traders,” the spokeswoman said.

The proposed pilot would introduce pre-approved designated locations through the shire, with site selection based on existing conditions, such as surrounding land use, safety, access to public facilities and current trading locations.

The proposal is also to increase the permit length from one week to deter “fly in/fly out” holiday traders, with permits to be offered for three, six and 12 months for regular traders

The pilot will run for 12 months, beginning next month.

Council has also consulted with traders in Port Albert, Seaspray, Golden Beach and business and tourism associations in Sale, Heyfield, Maffra, Stratford.