Markets muddle

A REVISED draft of Byron Council's proposed policy on local markets has gone on public exhibition - but people close to the markets say the changes are not significant, and the whole policy needs to be scrapped.

Amendments to the original draft - which met with fury from stallholders and residents at a packed public meeting - centre on the "qualitative assessment criteria" within the Expression of Interest (EoI) within the policy - the terms under which individual stallholders are chosen.

The original draft gave a 10% weighting to the criterion "knowledge of local market culture".

After the loud expressions of concern that the markets would lose their link with the community, the loading of that criteria has been increased to 20%. Similarly, the emphasis on the income to council has been reduced from 40%.

But Michael Stack, manager of the Byron Farmers' Market, said tinkering with the terms of the EoI missed the point.

"We can't approve of the EoI under any terms, because we don't agree with the policy," Mr Stack said

The council's proposed markets policy no longer has any reference to "community-based non-profit organisations" and "local" as qualifying terms for suitability to be a stallholder.

The removal of these phrases occurred because the Crown Lands Division told council it could not legally support the use of these definitions.

Their removal caused widespread alarm in the community that the markets would be over-run by outsiders and lose their local identity.

It's a concern that is still alive.

Byron Community Centre general manager Paul Spooner said nothing had changed for this second-round public viewing.

Fundamentally it was "the same EoI", he said.

"Our opposition remains the same. The issue is the same one - that the policy will lead to the markets losing their local connection.

"It's a quality versus quantity issue. Council is losing sight of how wonderful markets that are full of local traders are."

The first draft policy received 1000 submissions and the community is once again being invited to have their say.

The documents will be on public exhibition until May 18.

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