Toukley has lost a thriving small business to Newcastle following a tangle of bureaucratic red tape arising from just one complaint about a popular ice creamery.
Coast Community News reported in December that just before Christmas, Olivia Duff was ordered by Central Coast Council to shut down Duff’s Ice Cream and remove the mobile kiosk from private property at Noraville.
Duff had been making and selling ice cream from a shipping container decked out as a mobile commercial food kiosk and operating legally with appropriate licences required by federal and state laws, as well as being audited by the NSW Food Authority.
Duff said she had contacted Council and was told if she adhered to the state and federal legislation she was “good to go”.
“But through one complaint, presumably because we were too busy, we were closed down, and … Council then decided that they actually make the rules, that they are different to the legislation and they are above that,” Duff said.
Council said Duff’s Ice Cream was “unlawful” because it did not consider a shipping container to be a mobile food outlet and the business wasn’t operating within the relevant planning controls.
Duff said Council’s attitude was in direct contrast to its own advertising, hiring and utilisation of a 20ft shipping container for food and beverage catering which is moved from location to location.
“And ironically, Council has also used our services in the past for catering at movie nights,” she said.
“The only meeting we had with Council to resolve the situation was at our request, even though they repeatedly told everyone they were ‘working with us’.
“They provided zero help – but they did say I could sue them – a very costly and time-consuming exercise.
“Our five young staff were put out of work and Toukley lost its only dedicated ice creamery in one fell swoop.
“Council also told us that we cannot use our ice cream truck because the licence they gave us is incorrect although it’s the same as all ice cream and food vendors on the Coast, many (of whom) trade on the street.
“They claim that it only allows us to be at Council events.
“I have a lot of friends in the food vending community and quite a few of them are getting pestered about where they can operate.
“It’s very confusing; some people are told they can park on private property, some are told they can’t; some on roads and some not on roads.
“There’s a very big disconnect about what everyone is being told from the Council, depending really on who you are it seems.
“I’m a food scientist and I studied at the University of Newcastle; went to primary school and high school here, so very much a local girl.
“I wanted to bring my ice cream to my childhood neighbourhood but now that’s over.
“I’m going to continue looking for stores in Toukley while I go to Newcastle but I do need to make a living, get my icecream back out there and be able to continue with the brand – but I am hoping to come back soon.”