Farmers fear roadside produce stalls may become a thing of the past in Tweed Shire if a council proposal to charge operators up to $400 goes ahead, but shire managers say the proposed fee is a one-off and they have nothing to worry about.
Tweed Cr Warren Polglase says he thinks the charge is justified for the work involved in council officers ensuring the roadside stalls are compliant, while Tweed Shire Council general manager Troy Green says council ‘can’t turn a blind eye’ to unauthorised stalls.
While small stalls with honesty boxes in the Tweed are still permitted, would require a development application fee.
Currently stallholders are required to sell their produce from a single site at Tumbulgum, which many stallholders say is unworkable.
The new proposal would allow farmers to operate stalls by the road on or near their properties but Mr Polglase they would have to pay a licensing fee.
Hestopped short of saying non-compliant stallholders would be fined.
Mr Green, however, said the staff report on the issue to be debated at council’s next meeting ‘does not recommend any such charge’.
‘There is no proposal for a $400 per year charge to operators,’ he said.
‘Any licensing issued by Council to operate at Tumbulgum is free. All farmers need to do is to write to Council and stipulate the days they wish to operate, what they want to sell and confirm that they produce or grow the goods locally.
‘I can only assume that (the $400 figure) has been picked up from the DA (development application) fee should a farmer wish to lodge a DA to have a stall on their own land (which is in fact $345 for developments up to $5,000 not $400) and is a one off charge not annual.’
Mr Green said there ‘seems to be much fantasy at present concerning the famers market and road side stalls’, urging people to check reports in council’s February agenda (items 9 and 12) at http://www.tweed.nsw.gov.au/
She told ABC’s Rural Report that farmers needed all the help they could get and that the new charge would probably outweigh the money she made from her seasonal stall.
‘I think that farmers should be given every chance to sell their product on the roadside because I know from experience that many, many people drive around looking for roadside stalls.’
She said a petition opposing the changes was handed to Tweed Shire Council recently containing 300-400 signatures.
In 2012 councillors unanimously endorsed a report recommending actions to encourage roadside fruit and vegetable stalls, including an information sheet on requirements for approvals, a tourist map and web portal, and moves to boost public awareness of and general access to local produce.
The campaign, which was spearheaded by Greens Cr Katie Milne, followed reports of an applicant being hit by a $33,000 contribution levy for a three-by-five-metre stall.