Dirty toilets and overflowing rubbish bins have prompted a controversial crackdown on Yarraville’s popular gourmet food trucks.
Yarraville Gardens used to play host to up to 18 food vendors – hawking creme brulee, burger sliders and tacos. But in October Maribyrnong council staff decided to cap the number of businesses allowed to trade from the public park.
The food vans, including one from Fitzroy eatery Hammer and Tong, now have to fight for one of just 10 spots.
This week Maribyrnong council said a breakdown of the park’s only public toilet block was the key reason for the change in permit conditions. But in a letter distributed to food truck operators this month the council blamed “excessive dumping of rubbish” and “illegal dumping of cooking oils” for the new rule.
The cap was enforced despite council conceding they had received “very few” complaints about the food trucks, which have attracted thousands to the inner-western suburb park.
The decision has caused friction with food truck fans saying the restrictions unfairly blame the vendors for the rubbish and infrastructure problems.
Mr Burger general manager Maleik Edwards said while the food trucks each brought between two and three rubbish bins, there have been times when the existing bins in the area had not been emptied before the food trucks arrived for the weekend.
“Once we’re full, we’re full,” he said. “Unfortunately, once we hit a certain limit, there’s just no capacity for more rubbish.”
Mr Edwards said the food truck operators had a “great relationship” with the council and was keen to work with the council to reach a solution.
The council’s sustainable development director, Nigel Higgins, said the limit of 10 food vans would prevent any further breakdown of public toilet infrastructure and maintain public health and safety at Yarraville Gardens.
Up to 25 permits are available for food vans to operate in Maribyrnong despite the restrictions. Food trucks pay up to $2045 for an annual permit.
Former Yarraville resident Jess Hall, who regularly travels from Essendon to visit the food trucks at Yarraville Gardens, said the rubbish bins at the gardens were often overflowing.
But she believes a lot of the litter was produced by picnicking groups and private parties. She recently saw one group bring in eight slabs of Coca-Cola.
“The council isn’t doing anything about [the extra rubbish],” Ms Hall said.
“There’s no extra bins in the area, they don’t pick up the rubbish at all on the weekends.”
This article originally appeared on page 15 of The Saturday Age newspaper on 1 November 2014.