Mobile cafe causes stir in Piha (+photos)

By Wayne Thompson

Fiona Anderson's shiny new coffee caravan is dubbed "The Big Wave".

Some Piha residents are wondering whether it will wipe out the cafe venture of television personality Marc Ellis and his surfing mates.

The feisty operator of the camping ground at the Auckland west coast surf village launched the large spacecraft-like caravan at the weekend offering coffee and cake.

Her move came as a shock to Ellis and four fellow shareholders who are fighting to get resource consent for a 35-seat cafe which they want to build overlooking the beach.

They have spent a six-figure sum on planning applications, on top of buying their site.

They are surprised to suddenly have a rival for customers - particularly because Ms Anderson gave evidence against their consent bid at a Waitakere planning hearing just before Christmas.

In her submission, she said campers came to Piha for peace and quiet and "a cafe would make Piha less unique, less restful, and bring more traffic and noise".

Yesterday, Ms Anderson explained her venture as "I'm just providing what people want".

She said a friend who built motorhomes said he would make a little caravan for a mobile coffee shop.

"It's a lot bigger that I'd ever imagined ... it's very sexy. We are going to paint the side to look like a breaking wave."

Unlike Ellis' cafe, a resource consent is not needed, said Ms Anderson. Her caravan will be towed from the campground at the start of the day to North Piha, where there is a community centre, preschool and surf club, carpark and public toilets, and then home at 10pm.

"This is more like the Piha thing: it can go to all the big beach events and be put away. It's not intrusive, there's no one pulling in in their cars and no roadside advertising."

Ms Anderson said she believed Piha did not need a built-in cafe like that proposed by Ellis' company Preserve Piha.

"And let's not forget the biggest thing for me is my home and my campers - Marc is a likeable chap but how would you like him opening a business 10m from your bedroom window? Well, I don't.

"They can call me a hypocrite because I am anti-cafe and look for any archaic loophole to close me down.

"The council will be all over me like fleas on a dog tomorrow."

Preserve Piha shareholder and Piha resident Andy Higgs said Ms Anderson's move was curious when cafe supporters were angry about a coming challenge in the Environment Court to resource consents granted by Waitakere City Council and Auckland Regional Council.

Ms Anderson was a foundation member of the cafe opponent group Protect Piha Heritage.

Mr Higgs said her caravan would have an effect on the cafe venture "but not a material effect. It's not make or break.

"She is catering for a different market because you can already get a takeaway coffee in Piha. But we are doing a facility, a meeting place for the locals where they shelter from the elements."

- NZ Herald

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