If not here or there, then where?

Council leaves mobile florist 'high and dry'

MIKE MATHER
Last updated 15:24 14/03/2014
Flower Shack
Mark Taylor/Fairfax NZ

BLOOMIN' ANGRY: Flower Shack co-owners Julie Cave and Matt Miller have been told by the Hamilton City Council they are not allowed to trade anymore on River Road.

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They just want to sell bouquets - but now they have some brickbats for the Hamilton City Council as well.

Julie Cave and Matt Miller, the co-owners of The Flower Shack mobile florist, usually park their caravan on River Road where they have been selling flowers to passers-by for the past three and a half years.

But now Hamilton City Council have told them they can't trade there any more, because the shack is too close to a newly-designated cycle lane.

So the florists shifted their shack to Swarbrick's Landing, just off River Road, because it seemed a safe and visible location which other mobile traders used as well. Now they have been given the bum's rush by the council from that spot as well.

''The council have left us high and dry with nowhere to go,'' Ms Cave said. ''The main problem seems to be that the council officer who specifically looked after mobile business permits was made redundant last year. No one wants to take responsibility and look after us.

"We have been deemed a hazard because the edge of the road has just been designated a cycleway. It has left us in breach of the mobile trading bylaw.''

The couple took their business to Swarbrick's Landing but were subsequently told they could not stay there either, because it was a park.

''I would have thought the council had protocols about this kind of thing - that they would have come and talked to us before coming down on us all heavy-handed,'' Ms Cave said.

The council suggested shifting the ''shack'' 80 metres up the road, but Mr Miller said this would put them outside people's homes.

''We have around 150 customers each day. I wouldn't want that right outside my house. The council guys said 'we will handle the heat from the residents'. But I think it will more likely be us getting the heat instead.''

For now the caravan is parked up in Gallagher Drive as its owners search desperately for a new location.

 ''We have reasonably well-to-do customers,'' Mr Miller said. "Those are the kind of people who buy flowers and why River Road was the perfect location for us."

Some of Flower Shack's customers also contacted the Waikato Times to express their dismay over the ban.

''It sounds like the council is just being bossy,'' Raewyn Watkins said. ''You can describe me as a disappointed ratepayer. There's no need for the council to do that. They provide a lovely service.''

Anne-Marie Case-Miller was another upset flower purchaser. ''They are spreading a little bit of joy and happiness ... this is bureaucracy gone mad.''

Two council staff responded to Times' inquiries on the issue. ''It's important all mobile traders in our city are operating under safe conditions for the community's sake,'' CitySafe unit manager Elton Parata said. ''In its current location, some of Flower Shack's customers park in the cycle lane, which is a safety issue for all road users and is within 50 metres of a major intersection. After discussing options with the operator, it was agreed they would move 80 metres up the road which allows for more parking and is away from any major intersections.''

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Parks and open spaces manager Sally Sheedy said the council recognised there was an issue with mobile traders operating on reserves land, including Swarbrick's Landing.

''We are working to resolve this and will be proactively talking to the proprietors of these mobile businesses.''

One aspect of this will be working with mobile traders to deliver a good outcome for them, while also adhering to council's responsibilities under the Reserves Act. The act, and Council's Parks, Domains and Reserves Bylaw both state commercial activity is not allowed on reserves land, unless council gives permission.

''Our Open Space Plan has identified a need to develop a process relating to this issue, and that work had started before this issue arose.''

- Waikato

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