Russell Scott at the Rainbow Region Organic Market – happy to stay at the Lismore Showgrounds.
Russell Scott at the Rainbow Region Organic Market – happy to stay at the Lismore Showgrounds.

Market forces pushing

In what may be a case of ‘build it and they will come’ Lismore City Council is planning to run a Saturday farmers’ market in the CBD, putting it in direct competition with the existing farmers’ market at the showgrounds.

Lismore’s city centre manager Stephen Nelson has written a development application, which is expected to go before the next Council meeting in February. The proposal is to hold the market in front of shops on the northern side of Magellan St, between Keen St and Carrington St, between 10am and 2pm.

Five months ago, when The Echo last reported on the plan to have a market in the CBD, it was to move the Tuesday morning organic market into town. But that plan involved closing Magellan St to traffic between Carrington St and Molesworth St, which ruffled a few feathers and, ultimately, a compromise could not be found.

Russell Scott, who is one of the organisers of the organic market, said one of the things people liked about having the market at the showgrounds is that it is a safe space for kids. Having stalls so close to traffic was not an idea that was supported by stallholders, so they made a decision to remain at the showgrounds.

Stephen Nelson said the other reason for changing from Tuesday to Saturday was to try and increase the number of people coming into the CBD on Saturdays.

“The city centre is deserted by about 12.05pm most Saturdays. This is an attempt to bridge that gap, to hang on to the people who are there and to give people a reason to come into town,” he said.

The DA is for a three-month trial and Mr Nelson said there had been a high level of interest from people about having a market in town and that there were plenty of examples from around the world where markets did generate more activity in town centres.

A traffic management plan has been prepared that would allow traffic to continue to use Magellan St whilst the markets were on, but some parking spaces would be reserved for stallholders.

Mr Nelson said the market may change and evolve to include other forms of stalls over time, and the times may be “tweaked”, but the plan was to start with locally-grown food products.

But local coffee grower Jan Fadelli, who is chairperson of the Lismore Farmers’ Market committee, said she was “disappointed” about the decision.

“If some of our stallholders go, then both markets will fail,” she said. “As soon as one group of people leave, then there will be less stallholders, less opportunity for customers to purchase what they want, not as much choice... Many of our stallholders have talked to their customers and the general feeling is that they don’t want to go to town. They like the feel and the ambience of the showgrounds. They meet their friends for a chat, pick up their groceries and they have easy access with parking right next to where they are buying their food. It’s undercover, all weather, it’s a great venue and many customers said they wouldn’t bother to go (if it was in town).

“If it’s pouring with rain customers still come because it’s under cover. Magellan St is not so easy. If you have to park behind the library or down by the river then you would have to carry your groceries back.”

Mrs Fadelli said since the stallholders took over the running of the market a year ago, it had gone from strength to strength and hoped it would continue to do so.

Stephen Nelson said he hoped the new market wouldn’t have a negative impact on the existing farmers’ market, but he was charged with instigating a viable market in the CBD.

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