Kerry O’Brien will be moderating debate on plans to privatise control of Byron Shire markets at the Byron Community Centre tonight from 7pm.
‘Kerry was approached when he was attending one of the farmers markets here in Byron,’ says Byron market and community centre manager Paul Spooner. ‘He’s one of many local people who are genuinely interested in the future of the markets.’
Organisers fear the markets could be overrun by larger more commercial interests if the local and artisan nature of the markets is not preserved. At the very least, stall prices are likely to rise, they say, leading to increased prices for market shoppers.
The situation has come about because the state government owns the Crown land on which markets are conducted.
The Community Centre, which has run the markets for many years on a non-profit basis, claims too much of the new policy is focused on competition and the likely income to be derived tendering out the running of the markets, with insufficient account given to their unique and local nature.
Paul Spooner told Echonetdaily, ‘40 per cent weighting [will be] given to how much will be paid to the Council as a fee to run the market and five per cent weighting as to amount of support for local organisations’.
‘The question should be asked: “Why does Council value making money eight times more than it values supporting the community?”’
Byron mayor Jan Barham denies this.
‘The issue of identity and both resident and visitor support for the character of markets in Byron Shire has value beyond the economic; it has been recognised in Council documents such as the cultural plan, economic development strategy and the tourism management plan that Byron Shire offers a unique cultural experience at its community markets,’ she told Echonetdaily.
‘It is also recognised that the local markets are an opportunity for supporting local economic activity for local traders that generates employment and income that stays within the local community and has flow-on effects.’
Tonight’s meeting can hold just 250 people – so be early!
The draft market policy, along with the draft expression of interest for market licences, is now on public exhibition until Friday 23 December.