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Byron Shire
March 24, 2023

Don’t disperse the Byron Community Market

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The flat section of the Butler Street Reserve located at the disused rubbish depot was gazetted for Public Recreation in 1973.

For almost 40 years it has been used and recognised as the only site for the monthly Byron Bay community market. The world renowned colourful collection of around 350 stalls directly employs about a thousand people in the Northern Rivers and provides many in our community with an opportunity to work with their families, to try their skills in small business, explore craft or new ideas.

For many it is a vital, sustainable income.

The market is managed by the Byron Bay Community Centre and the proceeds are used to help many, including the most disadvantaged.

For two generations it has been a place where community and visitors can mingle experiencing a local life style and music surrounded by the beautiful remnants of the Cumbebin Nature Reserve.

In recent years the Farmers’ Market has been a welcome addition to the reserve and a weekly user of the space.

For many years the market community has resisted numerous attempts at relocation. A vote three years ago clearly showed the preference and the will of the people was to remain at Butler Street Reserve. A year ago the stallholders were told that a five-year lease had been given to BBCC to run the market at the reserve. This was welcomed by the stallholders as they could plan the future for their businesses with a little bit more certainty and the site could be given some much needed love.

Efforts to improve the reserve have been going on for nearly a decade. Several market managers have worked with volunteers to get permission from the council to plant trees and establish seating around the reserve. Members of the wider community planted and looked after native trees in difficult and dry conditions. Their efforts are slowly paying off. Newly shaded areas are becoming very popular places for community recreation, including picnicking families visiting the markets.

There is hope for more positive changes like: painting murals on the grey toilet block, more trees and benches, paving and landscaping the dusty areas, and providing all weather access to parking in the area west of the market site. This site has room for growth, creativity and positive change.

The latest plan proposed by council is to relocate the market into the town streets, the Railway Park and the railway tracks (which will be retained as a transport corridor). This amounts to a dispersal into an uncertain place and future.

The proposed urban, post-industrial setting is a claustrophobic vision which would destroy the uniqueness, integrity and flavour of the existing experience and may not be entirely popular with all the existing businesses in town including the Artisan Markets held at the Railway Park already.

The excuse given is that the only place for a new bus station is The Butler Street Reserve, right next to the nursing home with a long access road dissecting the reserve. Meanwhile the old train station, an obvious place for a transport/bus station, remains idle.

At a recent meeting between council officials and stallholders it was quite obvious that the consultation for this plan has been selective and that it does not include key stakeholders. The economic, cultural, social and environmental value of the Byron Bay Community Market at the Butler Street Reserve has been ignored and the plan has being presented to the intimidated stakeholders as a fate accompli because the council has funding. Surely the funding can be kept while a more reasonable site be renegotiated?

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  1. The Butler park site is like a furnace with scant relief. Most of the time it is a vacant soulless space. Opening up the rail corridor plus associated car parks and railway park would make a wonderful soul centre to our town. And many cars can park just outside the town centre around Butler street and locals and visitors then have a short and pleasant stroll into the heart of town with no parking stress. The area is larger than the current market site and is a much better option. Byron needs a central Piazza where So many wonderful activities can happen including great markets. Let the blast furnace that is Butler street go and let’s build up the core of our town as a shady interesting heartspace for all to enjoy all through the week.

  2. Get it out of that horrible Butler St Reserve and look towards the future. Talk about being stuck in a 30 year rut with no change or direction for a better market . The hot and barren Butler St site is no match for the Bangalow, The Channon or further afield Eumundi Markets. Look outside the square and visualise a linear market with easy parking and access from both the CBD , the beaches and a huge Butler St car park. I have been watching the ‘must stay the same ‘ since 1964 in our lovely town but it is getting very boring due to the blinkered determination of a few stalwarts with no vision. So another 30 years of walking around a slightly radioactive , hot and boring site ie Butler St Reserve for community markets ? I hope not.

  3. The railway land is zoned infrastructure the market ground is zoned recreational now we have this wrong headed notion that turning an infrastructure corridor into a recreation zone and a recreation zone into transport infrastructure is forcing a square peg in a round hole. Work with the natural settlement we have it has an inherent logic. Developing what we have, celebrating where we are is the challenge. Alternatives have been considered but none have the benefits of what we have. Re – the railway station to what it wants to be – a transit centre, landscape the neglected market ground and build on our heritage. There in lies real urban meaning, pride, uniqueness, strength and value. We could have demolished the Mullum Civic centre but we built on that heritage, we strengthened the urban fabric in that decision.

  4. As a stall holder , while I do find the uncertainty of a suitable market location stressful because I rely on the income. I find the current butler St location uncomfortable, hot, dusty and uninviting. I don’t know the logistics and legislation of it all but maybe it is a chance to really bring the market surroundings up to the same high standard as the stalls. A more central location could be a positive thing. The beachside market works so well, is this location a possibility? As a trial period maybe? Yes we did vote on its relocation there in the past but voting wasn’t compulsory , the results were very close and circumstances have changed.I understand wanting to use the current market site as a bus /car park to keep traffic out of town. I just hope council understands how much us stall holders and the people we employ rely on this market. And also the high quality of creative people we have in this area and what an important part of business start ups the market is and they choose to celebrate and support our wonderful market❤️

  5. As a Stalllholder all I would like to say is that it would be nice to see stallholders consulted a bit more.
    I’m not 100% on the Butler St site, but want to make sure the new location can:
    A) accommodate a market of this size, which in my estimation rules out the Beachfront
    2) Is easy for the public to find
    3) Has good access for traders. Some of us need to bring our cars in for set up.

    For many of the Stallholders these are viable businesses and source of income.

  6. The article states that “the uniqueness, integrity and flavour of the existing experience”. This is not necessarily the opinion of all the stallholders or the public. Butler street reserve has none of these attributes. Its hot, dirty and has no ambience or uniqueness to speak of. Compare it to the Channon and Bangalow and it falls drastically short. By a huge margin. The quoted economic, cultural, social and environmental value of the Byron Bay Community Market may NOT change along side a change of location. Perhaps with the new manager and a new site coupled with a ‘new broom that sweeps clean’ it has the chance to be all that is being purported? Ive heard so many customers and stallholders alike say that its a grubby little under-performing market that needs a facelift to capitilise on the number of people coming through Byron Bay. Change is not always a bad thing and when done in consultation with all parties has the potential to become a new, exciting and vibrant possibility.


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