A treasured Footscray tradition could vanish following a crackdown on footpath traders.
Elderly Vietnamese-Australian traders have for years spent Saturdays plying their wares on Leeds Street in Footscray’s Little Saigon, selling items including home-grown herbs, chillies and pot-plants.
But Maribyrnong Council has stepped in to end the colourful tradition, warning traders they risk $500 fines and having their goods impounded for trading without a permit.
The flashpoint for the footpath fight is just a stone’s throw from where the bustling Little Saigon markets burnt down almost 18 months ago.
The council’s move has sparked a backlash in community still mourning the market’s fiery end.
Footscray resident Felicity Watson said the traders should be left alone, describing them as part of the area’s social fabric, showing the suburb at its best.
“The vibrant character of our area is already being eroded by generic new residential development,” she said.
“We need to hang on to the traditions that bring life to our neighbourhood, and provide places for communities to connect.”
Long-term customer Mark Chu, who lives nearby, said the traders bring a unique colour and flair to Footscray and are not harming anyone.
“They actually bring curious outsiders to the area which desperately needs the pedestrian traffic,” he said.
“The council should be focusing resources to areas in Footscray that actually need action.”
Maribyrnong Council’s director of planning services, Nigel Higgins, said the area had become a popular spot for itinerant traders who do not carry permits.
He said the crackdown followed complaints from nearby businesses and breaches of local laws around food safety and access.
“It is common knowledge that food can carry contaminants or viruses that can be damaging, if not fatal, to a person’s health,” he said.
“To allow itinerant trading to operate without a permit, Council carries the burden of that responsibility.”
Mr Higgins said council officers, accompanied by a Vietnamese interpreter, advised the traders of the need for permits and erected signs in Vietnamese and English.
He said the council would happily work with traders on gaining permits, which costs about $30 per day.
Councillor Mia McGregor said decision had been made by council staff without councillors being briefed.
She said she was in discussions with chief executive Stephen Wall over the matter and encouraged people to email feedback on the crackdown to the council.