Hans Lovejoy, editor
The estimated six-month relocation of one of the two markets held at the Butler Street Reserve is up for councillor debate and a vote this Thursday.
The Byron Farmers Market is the first cab off the rank – the monthly Byron Community Market, also held at the same location, is yet to be negotiated to an as-yet-undetermined location.
We are told both markets need to move to accommodate the impending Butler Street bypass construction.
It’s probably to the surprise of no-one connected to this long-running saga that Council staff propose the weekly Byron Farmers Market move to the Cavanbah Centre for the construction duration.
An extensive staff report on the history, options, and possible cost are all outlined in the April 18, 2019 agenda – so what does it say?
At stake is how much Council (and the state government) will pay for this move, versus what the markets will pay for their inconvenience. Should that cost be borne 100 per cent by Council and the state government, given this wasn’t what the markets wanted?
Staff write in their report, ‘…Of the $127,789 identified in costs to temporarily relocate the Byron Farmers Market from Butler Street Reserve, it is recommended that Council provide support to the value of $69,969, noting that 79 per cent of this cost ($55,555) is towards the improvement of a Council asset (the Cavanbah Centre)’.
In other words, staff suggest not paying all the market costs, but want to spend the full $55,555 to increase ‘the ability of the Cavanbah Centre to attract complementary markets and events in future’.
It’s unclear where this directive came from, and whether the public support that. Previously the markets rejected this idea, yet that wasn’t included in the report.
Given staff say the Cavanbah Centre is considered a ‘financially constrained facility’, attracting ‘complementary markets and events to this site could improve the facility’s bottom line’.
So what do farmers market managers think?
Within the staff report, Byron Farmers Market organisers say, ‘Moving from our well-established location after such a long time will have a negative impact on the market itself, as well as our individual local farming families. As such, we are seeking financial support from Council regarding the relocation in an effort to reduce the negative impacts of the move as much as possible and to ensure our market and its farmers remain viable, both in the immediate and long-term future.’
Staff write that apart from additional infrastructure/logistics request from managers of $13,200, assistance with advertising and promotion costs is requested, totalling $49,620.
Instead, the staff recommendation is to provide $9,414 in administrative support and, ‘It is recommended that of the $62,820 requested by the Byron Farmers Market in additional infrastructure and promotional support, $5,000 in additional funds be offered towards relocation.’
Sound fair? Given there are many unknowns when moving two long-running markets, councillors will hopefully step in and provide much-needed clear guidance and compassionate leadership. That would make a great change from what has previously occurred. Thursday’s meeting in the Mullum chambers kicks off at 9am.