WINCHELSEA’s ‘honest and free’ food stand will continue to operate after an outpouring of local support, while the Surf Coast Shire council will refine its natural strip rules to avoid future disputes.
The council has frozen an infraction notice issued to the stand’s founders and will consider the initiative as an example of productive uses of curbside land in the development of a new natural strips policy.
The position had come before council in April when a petition urged councilors to overturn a fine imposed due to a breach of current local laws, which prohibit structures on natural strips.
The Honest and Free stand is off Barwon Terrace Road in Winchelsea and provides free fresh produce and other food items to community members.
Local growers are encouraged to deposit their own excess returns as a donation to their neighbours.
Councilors agreed with the petitioners that the position was positive for Winchelsea and should bring nuance to the new regulations.
“This petition has really shown the importance of this honest and free standing,” said Winchelsea Ward Councilor Heather Wellington.
“It’s a great idea that sparked a lot of community spirit, and people were really concerned when it turned out that it was going to become a victim of our existing natural bands policy.
“I think advisers will agree that this is something we should be moving towards, not away from it.”
Cr Mike Bodsworth also praised the food scheme and agreed the council should allow similar ideas.
“It’s about sharing food, helping with cost of living pressures and a sense of community. There’s everything to love about it,” Cr Bodsworth said.
Under a resolution at last week’s meeting, the board returned the advice to its chief executive Robyn Seymour, who will consider whether to implement it once the policy is completed.
The council’s policy on natural strips is under review, and an officer’s report said the petition and joint stand-related letters would be part of its community engagement.
Councilors agreed that their new policy should allow for positive initiatives that do not unduly impact their surroundings, such as similar food stalls, community book libraries or mulch donations.
Officers must present a draft policy update “in the coming months”.