The current Byron Bay markets discussion is being painted as a left v right council brawl.
That might be true I don’t know. However, it is an opportunity to understand Byron Shire Council’s relationships with the shire’s markets and the dangers and opportunities that this relationship poses.
The Butler Street Reserve is not council land. It is NSW Crown land held in Trust. Council are the current managers of the Trust.
The implications of this are: that unless the minister expressly approves otherwise, all fees and charges council imposes on users of Butler Street has to be spent on Butler Street.
Meaning, any increases in market fees do not go to general council revenue, they must be spent on the Butler Street Reserve.
Council has already made the decision to tender the licence to use the reserve for the purpose of operating the market. The price/fees council receives has already been set.
There is no genuine economic argument for messing with the markets.
Even if the minister did approve revenue from the Butler Street Reserve going into council’s general revenue the additional amount would mean less than a 0.00027 per cent towards Councils $60 million budget.
It might fix one or two potholes (literally). By way of contrast paid parking is expected to generate around $2 million in revenue for Council.
My guess is paid parking is the reason why council Staff recommended to councillors they hold off tendering out the Butler Street markets.
The reality is: there is a lot going on, and around, Butler Street Reserve at the moment (ie. parking trial and the bypass) and no one is really sure of what the future holds.
That being said, market management thought they had agreement to the principle of co-existence from council.
That seems to have been thrown out the window with the suggestion that council wants to move the markets to Belongil fields.
Of course the irony of the Belongil fields suggestion is that council will derive no revenue if that move is forced by council.
The bigger question for our community and councillors to think about is: what happens if the community centre loses the revenue from managing the market?
Will council step-up and fund the revenue shortfall? Or would they want to come down to the centre and work through with us which vital community services we should close down?
For some councillors this might be their first visit to our wonderful community asset.
David Sweet, secretary, Byron Bay Community Association