Gracetown-Cowaramup Bay Community chair questions Shire of Augusta-Margaret River’s food truck policy changes

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River.
Camera IconThe Shire of Augusta-Margaret River. Credit: Warren Hately /Augusta-Margaret River Times

The head of Gracetown’s community residents group has alleged the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River has tinkered with its food trucks policy at the behest of an operator in the town, to the detriment of residents.

Gracetown-Cowaramup Bay Community chair Richard Muirhead used last week’s Q&A session to question council staff about the process around the revamped policy, which would prevent any mobile food vendors in Gracetown while the town’s general store is open.

“No other location in this policy is singled out for this treatment,” he said.

“There’s been a concerted effort to block any competition coming into the bay.”

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Mr Muirhead cited guidelines to officers showing economic viability was not a consideration in planned and demanded to know what evidence was provided during the consultation process.

GCBC’s internal polling showed many residents wanted more options in the township, including at least a coffee van at the beach during holidays.

“You are actually ignoring what the community said,” Mr Muirhead claimed.

Shire sustainable development and infrastructure director Nick Logan countered Mr Muirhead’s claims, saying the community role of the Gracetown store was important to residents.

“We are just trying to strike the right balance here,” he said.

Mr Logan said the policy review was about opening up possibilities, not adding more restrictions as Mr Muirhead had claimed.

He told the session the Shire recognised its role not to endanger existing businesses in favour of mobile vendors, noting the store needed to remain viable or “be lost to the community”.

Mr Logan also said the council’s policy was designed to support flexibility for operators introduced during the pandemic.

But Mr Muirhead argued Gracetown’s economy risked being strangled by the proposed changes, which still need to be voted on by the council.

Gracies General Store owner Sandy Bullied said her business was already working in partnership with mobile vendors to meet the community’s needs. She didn’t believe Mr Muirhead spoke for all of Gracetown.

“We listened to what the people wanted on the mobile food vans,” she said.

“The shire are doing to us exactly what they’re supporting in the township of Cowaramup.”

Mrs Bullied said food vans were bolstering existing offerings and businesses which had no kitchens of their own or were operating only during peak periods.

“It’s created a wonderful network of like-minded people who can see they can work together for the sake of variety,” she said.

Mrs Bullied said winter was a dead time for trade and food vans tended to “follow the sunshine”.

“The population dramatically reduces over the colder, wetter months,” she said.

“It goes from zero to hero.”

Ms Bullied fronted the council in November, saying it would be a “catastrophic outcome” for her business if permits were granted for Cowaramup Bay beach.

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