Residents are encouraged to make submissions on the soon-to-be-advertised Shire of Augusta-Margaret River policy on food trucks, with planners putting forward a “starting position” that could be modified depending on community views. Food trucks were often a contentious issue perceived to pit fly-by-night operators against bricks-and-mortar businesses paying rates as well as overheads. A move earlier this year consulting with main street Margaret River operators about the prospect of allowing food trucks into the town’s festival precinct saw mixed reviews and that option was removed from the proposals going out for public comment. Sandy Bullied of Gracies General Store at Gracetown highlighted business concerns speaking to councillors at last Wednesday night’s meeting because the draft policy listed Cowaramup Bay for possible inclusion. “We understand why an operator would want to acquire a prime piece of paradise at a reduced fee and an ongoing arrangement,” Ms Bullied said. “This will undoubtedly create a clash of interest for the Gracetown store which operates similar hours.” Ms Bullied said food vans did not support local groups and clubs or provide ongoing employment to nearby residents, mentioning also community services such as the post office, art sales and hosting an emergency defibrillator. She strongly opposed the Cowaramup Bay permit proposal and predicted a “catastrophic outcome” for her business. The new policy sees planners walk a tightrope between the increasing popularity and demand for mobile food vendors — seen by many as a key attraction for tourists as well as outlying residents with less access to standalone restaurants — versus businesses concerned about losing clientele. Gracetown-Cowaramup Bay Community president Richard Muirhead disagreed with Ms Bullied and argued for more choices, especially at night when other services weren’t available. Gracetown and Cowaramup were growth areas, Mr Muirhead noted. “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in demand in recent years,” he said. “It’s actually about growing the existing (economic) pie.” Despite supporting the bay proposal, and promising to garner feedback from his members, Mr Muirhead said the precise location needed work to avoid causing problems around safety and parking. New locations eyed in the review included Duggan Pavilion in Cowaramup and Witchcliffe’s Druids Hall, as well as Cowaramup Bay, while Ellis Street was the only precinct in Augusta to receive interest. The report noted a spot at Pioneer Park was previously discontinued due to opposition from the Cowaramup Districts Club and the Margaret River Youth Precinct berth was now redundant. Mobile operators also requested longer permits and more certainty. Relaxations for vans on private land introduced during the pandemic would also be enshrined in the updated policy with only minor changes, pending council approval. Some sites would also be considered for multiple vendors, with the chance to offer vacancies when permitted traders chose not to operate.