I received a response to the questions I asked the City of Yarra that were included in my previous post about the issue of the legality of food trucks trading to the public from provate property.

First, the City of Yarra says that no planning permits have been issued to allow food trucks to trade on private property. I actually asked if any had been applied for, but never mind. I am sure none have been applied for because no one has been advised to do so as this advice is not in council’s documentation.

The implication is clear: food truck operators have no idea that the owner of the land from which they trade must make a planning permit application to council to approve the use of the property for food truck trading.

What the council fails to understand is that it must provide clear advice about what operators must to do  to comply with council regulations, not make them ask the right question to get the right answer. Council documentation should state:

  1. All Mobile Food Van (MFV) operators are required to be registered with the state government’s Streatrader office (this covers the food hygiene side of trading)
  2. Yarra MFV permits regulate trading on the street or other public land, eg carparks, reserves etc (this covers land use, competition, waste disposal and neighbour issues).
  3. IF a MFV operator wishes to trade from private property, they are required to apply for a planning permit, not an MFV permit (council has separate processes for administering public and private land use)

The City of Yarra business and administration bureaucrats and their communication advisors are terrible communicators. They should review their practices and undertake a peer review of best practice, which would reveal that other inner city councils like the City of Port Phillip have far superior advice about how to register a food truck.

Second, council says it has received complaints about food trucks operating on private property, but did not elaborate.

Third, in response to my question ‘now that council has finally admitted that it is aware that these trucks are operating illegally, what is it planning to do about it?’ council says only ‘Council has always advised that unless MFV have a permit they are not operating within the rules.’

In other words, nothing. Council is not going to make any effort to shut down food trucks trading from private property. Realistically, it doesn’t have the resources to do so and in any case this is hardly a big priority for council. The message to food truck operators is ‘go ahead and trade on private property – we won’t try to stop you.’

Why then is it making such slow work of enabling sensible regulation of the issue so traders can trade, eaters can eat and local residents and businesses can have clarity about what is allowed and what is not? Seemingly because the council can’t help but turn everything into an interminable bureaucratic mess.

Fourth, in response to my question ‘does council concede that trucks are operating illegally from private property in Fitzroy because it has enforced a defacto ban for 2 years?’ council says ‘Council has never enacted any ban for any period de facto or otherwise.’ This is a matter of semantics. I maintain that the failure of council to effectively regulate this issue in a timely manner constitutes a defacto ban on trading.

A simple rule of encouraging compliance is that you have to make it easier to follow the rules than to break them. Currently, the opposite is true. It is far easier for food truck operators to partner with a land owner and trade from private property, knowing that council will not interfere, than it is to apply to council for permission to trade from public land such as a street.

These circumstances also suggest that council is passively favouring some traders while discriminating against others. Those that have managed to find private land to trade from are being allowed to do so by council, while those who are trying to do the right thing and obtain a permit are being denied the ability to trade.

How is council making it difficult to trade legally? First by delaying the approval of the new rules which should make it easier for traders to obtain a permit. Second by not publishing details of ‘preferred’ locations as it has promised to do. This means that traders have to apply for locations blind, and council repeatedly rejects them. Council needs to take the initiative to identify locations it will approve.

While several operators have now received MFV permits from the City of Yarra, none are for Fitzroy. Yet several vans operate regularly in Fitzroy. This contradiction will likely continue indefinitely…

a response from the City of Yarra about food trucks trading from private property

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