Markets win in council levy battle

The popular Rotary markets at Ford Park, Merimbula draw large crowds particularly during the tourist season.
The popular Rotary markets at Ford Park, Merimbula draw large crowds particularly during the tourist season.

In a win for two local community markets, councillors voted not to increase fees for the monthly Merimbula Rotary and Candelo markets which are held on council managed Crown Land.

Both market organisers plough large sums of money back into their local communities, often doing work that ordinarily would be the domain of council.

Candelo markets pay council a $1.50 levy per stall but council had proposed an increase to $5 and $10 for a powered site.

Speaking for the Candelo markets, Judy Winters told council on Wednesday, August 16 that passing on a 200 per cent increase in council levy would make the market unviable.

Ms Winters pointed out that the market had invested in excess of $1 million in the 35 years they had been going.

“We have always used profits for the benefit of the Candelo community providing park seating, adding playground equipment and a shed for community use. There will be a loss of fundraising opportunities for local local groups. Markets have invested in excess $1 million and some has been used to pay for the public toilets,” Ms Winter said.

She said that an increase in fees would see stallholders question whether to attend resulting in a potential loss of the market to the town and to tourists.

Merimbula Rotary Club president Brad Barker and vice president Ken Carmen also presented to council with Mr Barker saying he took issue with the report from council.

Mr Barker suggested that a fixed fee of $200 per market would be “more than adequate to cover costs of council’s upkeep of Ford Park as opposed to $5 to $10 fee per stallholder”.

I would say they are totally peed off with council.

Cr Robyn Bain

“We have two fee schedules, a casual rate of $20 to $25 but most of our takings are from regulars at $45 for three months – that’s about 80 per cent of our bookings. The markets occupy a maximum of 72 hours per annum, we accept the charges are needed to cover electricity and some maintenance but we put a significant amount of money back in to the upkeep of Ford Park and to the rest of the community.

“In last two and a half years well over $100,000 has gone back into community but $45,000 has gone to Ford Park with the accessible playground,” Mr Barker said.

He also pointed out that Rotary cleaned up with brush cutters and collected rubbish at Ford Park.

“Paying 33 or 50 per cent of our rental as a volunteer organisation is a kick in the guts,” Mr Carmen added saying that by charging the volunteer organisation, council was “taking our funding away”.

In discussion some councillors tried to take a middle road to see whether a smaller increase would be acceptable but councillor Russell Fitzpatrick was adamant there should be no increase.

“Here we are unable to do capital works and here’s a way of getting it done. I refuse to go any other way than $1.50,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.

Councillor Jo Dodds said she was wary of “dividing the community up” as the Bega SCPA (South Coast Producers Association) markets paid a higher rate to council. However Cr Fitzpatrick said they were weekly markets and in competition with businesses in the town.

“Candelo markets have done an amazing job and are a significant tourist attraction to the town and I believe they can absorb a small charge,” Cr Dodds said.

Councillor Robyn Bain said they while she accepted Cr Dodds’ comments she also accepted what Cr Fitzpatrick said about SCPA being in competition with businesses in the town.

“Candelo markets have been going for 35 years, they’ve invested $1 million, that’s incredible; it is punching above its weight.

“I would say they are totally peed off with council,” Cr Robyn Bain said.

“We are disempowering them. Who does the maintenance, they do. We’re going to charge them so they can put less into the community. And listen to Rotary and the amount they have put into the community park. I love volunteers and believe we should look after them,” Cr Robyn Bain said.

In drawing the discussion to a conclusion the mayor Kristy McBain said she acknowledged one size didn’t fit all.

“Some of our service clubs provide substantial work to our community. In terms of what I have seen take place in Ford Park, Rotary have done substantial upgrades with the accessible playground.

“We don’t want to put in place a system that will hinder the community. We rely on them to provide the things we can’t provide. We need to give them a list of the projects we can’t get to and engage with them, there are plenty of people with skills. We need to actually work with them to ensure our community gets the best,” Cr Kristy McBain said.

Following the vote which was won with Crs Liz Seckold, Cathy Criff and Jo Dodds voting against the motion to keep costs at $1.50, Mr Barker said he was very pleased with the outcome.

“The original amount was far in excess of the upkeep we would generate given we only use it 72 hours a year. The councillors were very positive towards us,” Mr Barker added.