A well-known vegetable grower and market gardener in Evansford says the Pyrenees Shire Council has sought to close down his roadside shop at a time when many in the community are relying on it for access to fresh vegetables.
Jason Waller, of Block 454 in Evansford, says he's run his registered roadside stall since 2016, but has been receiving correspondence and inspections from the shire council telling him it must close.
Mr Waller, who supplies both local families and regional restaurants such as The Talbot Provedore, says the council have pursued him over the stall over the last five months.
"Back in late February, the Pyrenees Council made a new position called the 'Amenities and Safety Officer', Mr Waller told The Courier.
"His job was to basically clean up the Pyrenees Shire. And this has upset quite a few people.
"Anyway my shop has been in its current form where it is for three years. It's a registered food business; I have container permits for it and the other three occupations I do. All of a sudden it became a problem."
Mr Waller declares he's not naive, saying two years ago the Pyrenees Shire 'declared war' on shipping containers on properties.
"My shop is a shipping container, but you wouldn't know it was a shipping container," he said.
"It has a roof, it's lined. It's all about the food. The customers were certainly interested in what I had and the best way to protect the food was to seal it up.
"All of a sudden council wanted the stall moved by the middle of March. I had many conversations with (the Amenities and Safety Officer) because I had been contacted on many occasions, even about dogs and cattle being out of properties. I must say neither the dogs nor the cattle were mine."
Roadside Stalls: pros and cons
- Used to be free and unregulated
- Common sight on Australian highways selling everything from fruit to flowers, honey and nuts
- Fond memories of fathers returning home groaning under sacks of 'but they were cheap'potatoes
- Mothers saying 'You bought them, you peel them'
- In recent times subject to ABLIS fees and regulations
- Now a target for thieves and vandals, especially during COVID-19
Mr Waller says the increased attention has come at a time when farmgate shops have became fashionable and a way for producers who have had their ability to sell reduced by the closure of farmers' markets and other outlets, alongside shops and grocers being restricted.
"This stall has been here for years in its current form as a registered food premises, Mr Waller said.
"Pyrenees Council have, right through this pandemic, tried to shut my shop down, all the while happy too take my money for the kitchen registration .
"This little shop in the middle of nowhere has been absolutely essential for many people, particularly older residents, not wanting to go to supermarkets and avoiding crowds."
In a statement supplied to The Courier, Pyrenees Shire Council CEO Jim Nolan defended the inspections undertaken by officers.
"Council is supportive of entrepreneurial enterprises in the Pyrenees, but they need to occur in line with regulations and requirements," Mr Nolan wrote.
"Part of Council's role in the community is to ensure residents and visitors are safe. Council officers work under local laws as well as State Planning and Building regulations.
"Any use of public land for private purposes needs to be done with permission. Council is working with Mr Waller to ensure his business can continue."
For Mr Waller, the rise of regulation is less about safety and more about councils finding sources of revenue.
"Look, the closure of of restaurants and cafes has hit me hard as it did them," he told The Courier.
"This is my income and has taken four years to get it to where it is today. City-centric parasites have no clue about our local communities.
"People in this community have told me, and I'm sure would tell you, that during lockdown I fed them."
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