Council forces coffee van to close but won't tell owner why
TEN years ago, Rob Muston opened a takeaway coffee van in the park at Caloundra's Happy Valley.
It was tough going at first and there were days when he wondered why he bothered.
Today, the van has become an icon in the area and Mr Muston is busy enough to employ two part-time staff.
But once again he's wondering why he bothered after council bureaucracy crushed his small business dream.
Mr Muston's coffee van has fallen victim to council's permit process and he has until the end of June to appeal a decision that will allow a new operator to reap the reward for all his hard work.
"All the applications were assessed by a panel who scored points for things like innovation, training, equipment etc and then the recommendations were presented to a special council meeting for approval," he said.
"For some reason which I can't understand, another applicant was judged more suitable than me to run a coffee van in the park and I'm being shown the door."
To add insult to injury, he said the council notice that he had until the end of the month to fight the loss of his livelihood was issued late on the Friday before the long weekend.
"So the clock was ticking but I couldn't do a thing until the Tuesday," he said.
"Worse still, they have denied me natural justice because they refuse to tell me why they made their decision.
"So while I have hired a solicitor, we have no idea exactly what we are fighting against because council won't tell us.
"I just don't understand what's happened.
"If someone is doing a good job, you should praise them and do whatever you can to help them keep doing it - not crush them."
Local councillor Tim Dwyer agreed the judging process was flawed and he had voted against the staff recommendation.
But he could not discuss the basis for the staff decision because of confidentiality.
"I am a supporter of Mr Muston because the way he has operated his coffee van has been very good for the location, from the point of view of reporting vandalism, making the park a better place for the community," he said.
"I simply don't think there was a fair and equitable assessment of his application in relation to the other applicant."