Trading debate widened

Jinty MacTavish.
Jinty MacTavish.
A debate about revising Dunedin City Council's mobile trading bylaw turned to the use of the city's public spaces in general yesterday, resulting in an entirely new proposal for the council to consider.

The hearings committee of Crs Andrew Noone (chairman), Jinty MacTavish and Hilary Calvert was deliberating on submissions on a proposed 10-yearly revision of the mobile trading bylaw.

The proposed bylaw is little changed from the existing bylaw and mobile traders have banded together to express their concerns that it is too restrictive for them to flourish, meet the increasing expectations of their customers, or contribute to increasing the city's vibrancy.

They also say it is out of step with the bylaws of other cities around the world.

During discussions with council staff Cr MacTavish said one thing that appealed from her research on mobile trading rules in other cities, was Wellington's bylaw governing the temporary use of public places in the city.

The bylaw was an overarching catch-all policy covering the commercial and community use of public places, that contained subsections on specific uses, such as mobile trading and the commercial use of footpaths.

The DCC has separate bylaws for each of those activities.

Cr MacTavish said a broad-brush policy appealed because it did not pigeonhole users of public places.

Given the council was revisiting the bylaws governing mobile trading, commercial use of footpaths and skating, which could also be included in a catch-all policy, it seemed like a good time to think about going down that path, she said.

She asked staff it they saw any benefit in it. Those present, mostly members of the parks and reserves and environmental health departments, said they did but they would need direction from the council to start investigating it.

Cr Noone agreed there was merit in the idea, and that the whole committee was of the view there was now a need for a change of tack.

It would adjourn its deliberations, anyway, while it sought clarification on legal matters and other issues concerning the mobile trading bylaw and would now also seek council approval early in the new year about developing a catch-all bylaw on the temporary use of public places.

Another round of community consultation, including hearings, would be required if the council endorsed that recommendation, Cr Noone said.

The committee began its deliberations by trying to set down its philosophical approach to mobile trading.

It agreed that the objective of any bylaw had to be to bring vibrancy and character to the city's public places and meet the expectations of people living in an urban environment while ensuring the public's health and safety.

Mobile trading should also work to enhance the function of public spaces, provide small business opportunities, and contribute to achieving the council's other strategic goals, such as those set out in its economic development and spatial plans.

Cr MacTavish noted the latter elements would have to be achieved outside a bylaw.

''We need to step back and think how mobile trading contributes to improving our urban environment - and a bylaw will only be one tool to achieve that.''

Several mobile traders were present at the hearing and afterwards said they were happy the council was seriously considering reshaping the mobile trading bylaw, and that it was responding to their concerns, even though it seemed likely it would be some time before any changes were made.

''I'd much rather continue working knowing something was going to change, than knowing it wasn't,'' Kim Morgan, from Tex Otago, said.

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