Truck shop ban a step closer

By Ged Cann

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A call to ban mobile truck shops in Hamilton is one step closer to being a reality, with Hamilton City Council's Community Forum Subcommittee last week moving the matter to a future strategy and policy committee meeting to discuss the legal possibility of a ban.

Despite this, council staff issued a permit allowing a second truck shop to trade within the city the very next day.

A previous Hamilton News investigation found a number of retailers to be trading illegally.

The recommendation came about as a result of the most recent Window on the Waikato report, which found the trucks were creating a strain on low-income families by offering easy credit on overpriced goods.

Report co-author Anna Casey-Cox said amending the public places bylaw to ban the practice wouldn't be difficult.

"It wouldn't be a challenging thing to achieve. There was a real sense something was possible," Ms Casey-Cox said.

Salvation Army senior budget adviser for Hamilton Tanya Crake has said previously that 98 per cent of those seeking help had dealings with at least one truck shop, and often several.

She said the trucks charged prices well above recommended retail price on everything from electronics to clothes, food and linens, and often targeted those with low financial literacy who would not understand the contracts they were signing.

"Most of the trucks sell food these days. The food is about three to four times what you would pay in a dairy - it's very expensive," she said.

Councillors Philip Yeung, Karina Green, Dave Macpherson, Martin Gallagher and Leo Tooman were present for the subcommittee meeting.

Ms Casey-Cox there was unanimous support for action.

Anglican Action social justice enabler Rob Moore said the subcommittee recommended the matter be moved up to the strategy and policy committee to review the public places bylaw to see what measures were possible to prohibit the trucks activity.

"Unless you live in certain neighbourhoods you would have no idea these trucks operate here," Mr Moore said.

Councillor Karina Green said she was shocked at the prices truck shops were charging.

"They entice people in with a kind of hire-purchase scheme, so they end up paying more. If you pay $1500 for a phone and there's an interest rate attached so you might end up paying more than $2000."

She said people were enticed by convenience and many might be intimidated by having the shop directly outside their home.

Ms Green said the issue was how to enforce restrictions on traders who could pop up any where any time.

"It's worth a conversation. Council does have to do something because this is harmful to our community."

Ms Green said she would be annoyed if she found out staff had issued a permit, despite knowing of the community subcommittee forum's inclination towards a ban.

Councillor Martin Gallagher said there were good retailers leasing spaced in town, and he was sceptical of any mobile retailers coming in without making any contribution.

"I am looking for actions - we have a problem. What can we do to help solve it?," he said.

Council's city safety manager Kelvin Powell said staff had been invited to review current activities of mobile retail traders operating in the city and report further with reference to options available to the council to further regulate these activities.

"We will be investigating this further and will report back to council when we have looked into our available options," he said.

Mr Powell said there was no date set for reporting back to the council.

"There are now two mobile truck shop companies permitted to operate in Hamilton.

"If we get a complaint about a company that's operating without a permit, in breach of their permit, or alleged to be in breach of their permit we will investigate. In the 20 months I have been in the role, we haven't received any complaints," he said.

- Hamilton News

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