Council to look to Taree's example in cutting red tape
SOMEONE who knows exactly how effective the removal of red tape around footpath trading and advertising is Clarence Valley Council's director of corporate governance, Laura Black.
Before she came to work at the Clarence Valley last year she worked at the Greater City of Taree, which amalgamated into the Mid Coast Council in 2016.
"There are some similarities and differences between the situations at Grafton and Taree,” she said.
"At Taree the highway went right down the main street. Here the highway doesn't actually go through town. That's a difference.”
One of the similarities most business owners and managers would recognise was the state of the main street after the bypass opened in 1997.
Initially there was great rejoicing as the town considered itself "free” of the highway churning traffic through the main street.
But Ms Black noted over the next decade and more, reality kicked in and shops began to shut and business migrated to a big shopping centre that opened at about the same time.
"For about a decade the main street struggled on like that, with shops closing and going backwards,” Ms Black said.
She said the turnaround, when it began, was driven from the the bottom up.
"Taree had always been big with the Tidy Towns movement and in 2013 its president, local accountant Graham Brown decided the main street needed a clean-up,” Ms Black said.
She said more than 100 people took up brooms, mops and other tools to give the street a spruce up.
"Behind the scenes Graham had been pushing it for months and once the clean-up started his enthusiasm infected just about everyone.
Ms Black said the transformation of the CBD continued beyond the clean-up as the rejuvenated businesses began taking their wares to their customers.
"Street beautification projects began,” she said.
"Things likes the Giant Abacus, built outside Graham's office, began to appear.
"People began to think of ways to create a street feeling that suited the type of business they were doing and also looked to work in with nearby businesses.
"Cafes were encouraged to set up tables on the footpaths near a shop window, so people could see what was inside while they had a coffee.”
Despite her Taree experiences, Ms Black's role with CVC's latest move is purely advisory.
"(Economic development coordinator) Liz Fairweather and her team are driving this project,” Ms Black said.
Ms Fairweather said the aim of the policy if council approves it on Tuesday, was to encourage local traders to promote their businesses.
"Removing the fees for footpath trading and advertising gives businesses the opportunity to get out of their shops and engage customers directly,” she said.
"We expect to even see the A-frame advertising disappear eventually, as businesses get their heads around the concept of street vending.
"Advertising is meant to get people to go into the shops, but this concept is based on the idea of shop owners taking their business to the customer.”
But the economic development team's project officer David Newberry said shop owners still had responsibilities.
"There are still regulations they have to consider, but these are more around accessibility and safety, rather than fees,” he said.