A fundamental disagreement over the value of local markets has been made public in an email between the Byron business community’s Byron United (BU), and the Byron Community Centre (BCC), who hold the market tenure.
Prompted by a survey of stall holders over the second monthly Sunday market, BU president Sevegne Newton emailed BCC general manager Paul Spooner in no uncertain terms: ‘to continue conducting a second monthly Sunday market is not acceptable to our members.’
Her main concern is that stall holders don’t pay the same rates as do retailers in shops, and that it is ‘detrimental to their trade’.
‘The market stall holders pay a small fee to operate and in the main do not pay business rates in Byron Shire,’ she wrote, ‘therefore not contributing to the infrastructure and maintenance in the town. ‘We will be objecting to Council and have copied the [Council] General Manager into this email.’
Mr Spooner responded by sending his email – and hers – to the market stall holders. It is also posted on the centre’s website, www.byroncentre.com.au/market-debate.
He refuted her claims by saying stall holders ‘provide a significant public benefit... and ultimately benefit your members... We believe it is short-sighted of Byron United to attempt to limit the trading hours of this part of the Byron business community.’
A regular market stall holder for five years told The Echo they spoke to someone at their stall this week who got up at 4am and drove from Taree just to be able to make it to the Byron market.
‘They plan to stay a week,’ they said, ‘and therefore shop in the rest of town. But the main inspiration to come here, they said, was the vibrant and unique culture that they experience by coming to the market.’ Meanwhile in the forthcoming newsletter from BU, Ms Newton questions the ‘permanent tenure’ by the BCC over the markets.
‘What have they provided apart from administration?’ she told The Echo. ‘There is no capital expenditure spent from the money the market stall holders pay – it’s all taken up by the Community Centre’s wages. It appears that the markets are keeping the centre afloat.’ Both parties claim to want to work together on the topic, but so far no-one is backing down. The market’s extended trade will expire at the end of this month, and it will be interesting to see how Council will vote. Will they protect the interests of the business community, or will they allow markets to continue?
For someone who regularly goes out in Byron – both day and night – I am yet to see evidence of a real downturn in the town. What I do see is some empty shops, and others that struggle with business models that may need a re-invention in the face of outrageous rents.
Booze and food – as always – make a reasonable, if not profitable trade here.
As someone who grew up here, I would like to see the markets continue to grow. I just don’t understand why you would cloneyourself inmultinationalmass-produced‘fashion,’orbuy knickknacks... oops, come to think of it I do that while overseas.
The Shire’s markets thankfully provide some diversity.