Stallholders fear a new council policy will lead to the demise of a weekly food market in the Port Macquarie CBD.
Stallholders at the Real Food Markets can’t set up before 3pm each Tuesday, effective from February, under Port Macquarie-Hastings Council’s Markets Policy.
Ian McKittrick from Ewetopia Farm said he thought the 3pm set-up time would kill the Real Food Markets in the long-term as it didn’t give enough trading time and meant stallholders would miss out on the best hours of market trade.
“We definitely benefit from the fact we are here when the CBD is active,” he said.
Mr McKittrick said people did support the weekly market after work but the best hours were earlier in the day.
“I would like to see the market continue on in its current timeframe,” he said.
The council adopted its Markets Policy in November.
Council director Jeffery Sharp said in considering the draft Markets Policy following public exhibition, the council made the decision to adopt a policy which had specific requirements around CBD markets.
“This was on the basis that some councillors wanted to ensure the markets are complementing (not competing with) existing CBD businesses,” Mr Sharp said.
“Staff have written to Port Central, as the owner of the Real Food Markets, outlining the requirements under the new policy and inviting their application to continue the market, with the new set-up timing requirements to come into effect from 1 February, 2019.”
Mr Sharp acknowledged this would mean a change in operating time for the market, which would be an adjustment for both the stallholders and their customers.
“We hope that the community will continue to support these and other local markets, noting the range of benefits that quality, well-managed markets can provide for our community and our place,” he said.
Michael Kendon from Kew’s Totally Free Range Eggs estimates 90 per cent of his customers purchase through the weekly Tuesday market before 3pm.
“For us, it’s more about giving the customers access to where food comes from, direct access to the farmer and how it’s grown,” he said about the market experience.
Mr Kendon is concerned the council policy, as it applies to the Real Food Markets, will stop additional traffic coming through the shopping centre and nearby businesses and impact the accessibility of fresh farm produce as well as the understanding of where food comes from.
He also raised concerns fewer market sales could lead to job losses.
Desley Bailey from The Eastward Garden at Rollands Plains said most of her stall’s customers shopped before 3pm.
“I just don’t understand [council’s decision] when markets are proven to bring people into the CBD, proven to enhance the economy and the local businesses around us are supportive of what we are doing,” she said.
Mrs Bailey said the market was her livelihood.
“We want to stay local because it’s not just about money for us, it’s about relationships and community,” she said.
Matt Rullis from Organics MattR called on the council to reconsider its position.
He said the Real Food Markets had been a game changer for his business.
The Port News approached Port Central for comment.
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