Council frustrates thirst for coffee business

Derek Birt is keen to sell his coffee at New Plymouth's Huatoki Plaza, if the council lets him.
Derek Birt is keen to sell his coffee at New Plymouth's Huatoki Plaza, if the council lets him.

Derek Birt and his coffee tuktuk are hankering for a permanent spot at the Huatoki Plaza.

Mr Birt and his wife Shirley have a strong desire to see the under-used plaza blossom, and believe cementing a bit of life there is a must.

"It needs more than just one coffee cart though," he said. "Having a number of things down there sounds wonderful to me."

Mr Birt serves coffee at the plaza every Sunday during the farmer's market, and has also worked during council-run events such as the Walk to Work promotion and Race Relations Day earlier this year.

After those events, Mr Birt approached New Plymouth District Council for permission to operate permanently, but was turned down because of current council policy.

New Plymouth District Council parks manager Mark Bruhn said the council only allowed portable retailers to operate during events.

"At the moment we have an approach that says if it's not related to an event, either community or commercial, then it's not possible."

Mr Bruhn said it was important to consider how allowing permanent retailers would impact on those already situated in the area.

However, last December, the owner of The Good Home, David Stones, said he would embrace coffee caravans or food carts that might help to liven the place up.

"I would think they would already have their client bases; everybody's got their niche," Mr Birt said.

"And there's nothing wrong with some healthy competition."

The couple said it would be nice to see more plants, cafe-style chairs, food and drink carts, and even music on the odd occasion.

"There needs to be something there that's going to create an atmosphere. Somewhere you can go and get a sandwich and sit in the sun at lunchtime," she said.

"The council could even earn some money by renting out the space, that's the flipside of it."

Mr Birt said he would not object to a shift system that would require sharing the area with different vendors. "We would start to rival Wellington in a way if we had a bit more life there. It's crying out for something."

Mr Bruhn said the council would be addressing the situation later this year through the commercial-use policy for parks and open spaces, which would then go out for public consultation.

Taranaki Daily News