Democracy triumphed over appalling policy last Monday week. Perhaps the most inspiring thing about the draft market policy meeting held at the community centre is that everyone, from business owners, stallholders and the public, had a go. Good questions were asked and a lot of ground was covered.
And as to be expected Kerry O’Brien did an excellent job as chair; he was on topic, asked pertinent questions and kept it tight and light. Best of all he aimed for a resolution at the end of the meeting which gave councillors the clear message that the draft policy did not reflect community wishes.
Some critics claim that breaking the Byron market monopoly held by the Community Centre could potentially uncover a racket, and/or free it up to be administered more democratically.
It appears like sour grapes. Everyone – ie the stallholders – at that meeting was in total support of current management. As Community Centre manager Paul Spooner said at the time, no-one else is better placed to administer local markets than a community centre.
But our state government overlords have spoken (have they?) and it must be open to tender. Councillors fear that now the state is grabbing at caravan parks previously managed by councils they could turn to public lands such as sports fields and parks. To prevent that, they say, policies like this need to be properly enshrined to protect community assets from state takeovers.
Council’s problem is that it still has no constitutional recognition as part of the third tier of government and remains in thrall to the state government. The only thing that appears to give any state government reason to act (under either party) is the legislation they are bound by, or perhaps bad press.
However, as with anything legal, the winner is the one with the best advice, and as elections are held every four years, there’s a lot of ignoring that can happen in between when it comes to bad PR.
A lot is at stake. Many livelihoods. I know stallholders who are paying off property and feeding families (partly) from market income. It’s a cornerstone of our identity, it’s a major tourist attraction and a regular local hang.
The best speech all night was from a quietly spoken farmer who simply said to the audience, ‘You allow us to do what we love. It’s not a huge income, but without this, we wouldn’t be here.’
Let’s hope the second draft of the market policy will allow localisation to thrive instead of whatever it is the state government wants.